After a decade of planning, construction, delays, setbacks and more delays, the new Wittpenn Bridge, which connects Kearny to Jersey City over the Hackensack River, is set to open to traffic Friday, Oct. 1, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has announced.
Work on the new bridge began in 2011 and was slated to be complete several years ago. However, for various reasons, including bad weather and a global pandemic, that timeframe was pushed back often. And now, the project that cost taxpayers $500 million, will finally become a reality — mostly.
We say mostly because when the bridge does reopen later this week, access to Fish House Road won’t be immediately available to east-traveling traffic. The NJDOT says it could be another year before that happens. But it will make life much easier for commuters, who were often faced with closures, massive lane shifts and various other headaches.
The NJDOT says the project consists of the replacement of the bridge and the realignment of Fish House Road on the west side of the river. The new bridge is located north of the existing bridge.
The existing Wittpenn Bridge is a vertical lift bridge built in 1930 and it is 2,169 feet long with 14 deck-girder spans and three through-truss approach spans, two tower spans and a 209-foot vertical lift main span. The bridge currently provides four 10 foot travel lanes (two eastbound and westbound) with no shoulders. There is no physical separation between opposing traffic on the bridge. (See p. 2)
The new vertical lift structure will carry two 12-foot lanes, a 12-foot auxiliary lane and an 8- to 10-foot right shoulder in each direction as well as a six-foot sidewalk along the eastbound roadway.
An eight foot median consisting of variable width inside shoulders and a median barrier will separate opposing traffic flows. The new structure will accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Also, the new vertical lift bridge will provide for a minimum vertical clearance of 70-feet above mean high water, in the closed position, compared to 35-feet for the existing lift bridge.
This will lead to significantly fewer shutdowns to vehicular traffic for maritime traffic to pass through.
Once the entire project is complete, it will make life easier for first responders, especially.
Kearny Police Chief George King told The Observer that getting police, fire and EMS to South Kearny from uptown has been a particular challenge. To get there, vehicles had to be driven either on the NJ Turnpike to Exit 15E or over the existing Wittpenn Bridge, into Jersey City, to Rt. 440 and then to Montgomery Street to get to South Kearny.
Once Fish House Road reopens in 2022, the extra travel would no longer be required.
Access to Fish House Road is only available from Rt. 7 westbound.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.