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FAQ

Q. Why is this bridge study necessary?
A: Presently, the South Front Street Bridge is closed to through traffic since March 4, 2011 due to severe deterioration of the superstructure stringers and floor beams.  Because to its age, the bridge has deteriorated over time and routine maintenance can no longer address the deficiencies.



Age and deterioration, increased traffic volume and loads, and the potential for storms to disrupt normal operations are some of the reasons why this bridge no longer operates and is in need of major rehabilitation or replacement if it is to continue to function and provide a viable crossing of the Elizabeth River connecting Bayway Avenue and Elizabeth Avenue.  Both are identified as evacuation routes for the City of Elizabeth.


Age and Physical Condition. 
The bridge was built in 1921/1922 and is beyond its serviceable life at 93 years old.  The superstructure is in serious physical condition with numerous steel supporting members exhibiting extensive section loss.  The bridge deck is in poor condition due to several fractured and missing secondary members within the open grid.  The substructure is in poor condition with several areas of cracking and/or shallow spalls.  The channel and channel protection are in poor condition with severe erosion at the downstream embankments.


Load Capacity
The bridge was closed to through traffic in March 2011 due to inadequate structural capacity steel member sections.  Prior to the bridge closure, it was load posted for 4 Tons. The exiting bridge design (truss superstructure) is fracture critical.


Highway Safety. 
The bridge has inadequate (17’-8”) roadway width and the approach alignment is substandard.  The bridge railings do not meet current crash standards.  The approach guide rails and bridge end treatments do not meet current design standards.


Public Safety. 
There is no existing safety interlocking system that prevents bridge operations from proceeding out of sequence. 


Seismic. 
The bridge is susceptible to seismic forces and does not meet current seismic design standards.


Storms
. Bayway Avenue and Elizabeth Avenue are evacuation routes for the City of Elizabeth and the South Front Street Bridge is a vital link as the only access point to and from each area.  The Study will look at possible roadway and bridge improvements to allow better traffic flow, shoulders for increased safety and emergency access, continuous sidewalk access from each side of the Elizabeth River, and relief from storm-related issues in the City of Elizabeth.


Q.  What is an LCD Study?
A: A Local Concept Development (LCD) Study is the first phase of the Local Project Delivery Process for transportation improvements.  A transportation problem has been identified, such as the South Front Street Bridge in such poor condition. It is the first step to bridge improvements. The County of Union filed an application with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) who oversees this phase of the project, known as Local Concept Development (LCD).  During this phase a well-defined and well-justified Purpose and Need Statement will be developed focusing on the need to improve safety and maintain the current crossing over the Elizabeth River.  The LCD Phase elements also include data collection; coordination with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, community stakeholders, and permitting agencies; the development of a reasonable number of sensible and practical conceptual alternatives; the determination of a Preliminary Preferred Alternative, and to investigate all aspects of the project.  These aspects will include environmental, right of way, access, utilities, design, community involvement, constructability, and cost analysis. (See NJTPA LCD flowchart)
LCD Flowchart (PDF - 365KB)

Q. What is the schedule for the South Front Street Bridge LCD Study?
A: The following is the proposed schedule:
LCD Project Schedule (Major Milestones)

Develop Project Purpose and Need Statement

July 2014

Development of Conceptual Alternatives

October 2014

Selection of Preliminary Preferred Alternative

March 2015

Submission of Draft Concept Development Report

May 2015

Obtain Resolutions of Support for Preliminary Preferred Alternative

June 2015

Completion of Local Concept Development Phase

September 2015


Q.  How much will it cost and who will pay for it?
A: The cost of the LCD Bridge Study is $500,000 (five hundred thousand dollars) funded with Federal dollars.  There is no estimated cost of the design and construction of the project since the Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA) has not been determined.

Q.  What kind of bridge is the South Front Street Bridge?
A:

The South Front Street is a movable bascule bridge, meaning that the deck
section moves with a counterweight that balances a span or "leaf" (the
bridge roadway deck) with an upward swing to open up and allow full
clearance for marine vessels to travel up and down the Elizabeth River:

  • Bridge spans the Elizabeth River connecting the Bayway Avenue & Elizabeth Avenue (both are designated evacuation routes).
  • Year Built: 1921/1922 (rehabilitation work in 1974 & 1999).
  • Bridge type: Single Leaf Heel Trunnion Strauss Bascule.
  • Length: 158 feet.
  • Overall Width: 19.2 feet, Bridge Roadway Width: 17.8 feet.
  • Bridge clearance in closed position: 7 feet (at MHW = Mean High Water level).

Q.  What is the existing condition of the bridge?
A: The Study findings to date have revealed the following:
  • Bridge is in serious overall poor condition and is structurally deficient
  • Sufficiency Rating = 25.6 (out of 100)
  • Superstructure in poor condition: Rating = 3 out of 10 (varying material loss to the floor beams, stringers, trusses, and counterweight support members)
  • Bridge was load posted for 4 tons prior to closing in March 2011 due to serious advancing deterioration of steel support members
  • Substructure in poor condition – Rating = 4 out of 10 (cracks, material loss in steel sheeting)
  • Deck in poor condition – Rating 4 out of 10 (open grid)
  • Timber fender systems are severely deteriorated and channel protection is in poor condition
  • Bridge is functionally obsolete due to inadequate bridge roadway width (18ft vs. 24 ft) and roadway approach alignment

Q. Does Union County plan to widen the bridge?
A: The Study will help to determine if there is a need to widen the bridge.  The existing bridge structure may not be capable of widening, so a wider bridge structure would require a replacement bridge or an alternative bridge crossing as possible alternatives to address the project transportation needs.

Q.  How will the project benefit pedestrians and bicyclists?
A: As part of the Study, the project team is asking for input from the local officials and community stakeholders to understand what pedestrian and bicycle mobility and access is needed.  As part of the LCD Study phase, when developing the project purpose and need for improvements, all modes of transportation are taken into consideration regarding the bridge: pedestrians, cyclists, transit, vehicular, and marine types of activity and access.

Q. Have the project's improvements been decided?
A: No, the improvements have not been decided.  The reason for this Study is to identify what are the current transportation issues and needs regarding the South Front Street Bridge to develop the purpose and need for bridge improvements.  The project is currently in the Local Concept Development phase to identify the needs, develop alternatives and determine a preliminary preferred alternative (PPA) for bridge improvements that with resolution of support from the local officials and concurrence with the regulatory agencies would then move forward to design and construction given availability of Federal funding.  The County of Union and cooperating agencies will continue to seek community input on the design and proposed transportation improvements during the LCD phase and future phases of the project.

Q. What about right-of-way impacts and do you notify property owners?
A: Property owners within a 200-foot set-back of the South Front Street Bridge were sent an Access Notification Letter to inform them of the Study prior to any project team members conducting field site investigations.  Depending on the conceptual alternatives developed, an estimate amount of potential right-of-way impacts is identified for comparison purposes of the alternatives, but specific right-of-way determinations are not done in the Concept Development phase. Further right-of-way details and procedures would be part of the Local Preliminary Engineering and later Design phases. 

Local Project Delivery Process
Local Capital Project Delivery (LCPD) Program Process (Download PDF - 23KB)

Early and active participation by property owners adjacent to the bridge is helpful to understand potential benefits and impacts related to proposed bridge improvements, as are other community stakeholders (residents, business owners, and civic organizations) welcome to attend public meetings to share information and provide input.  Surveys including a contact form were distributed to identify those interested in the LCD Study and are available online survey and contact form

Q. How will the project affect the environment?
A: Environmental resources that may influence the development of conceptual alternatives and design include wetlands, threatened and endangered species, aquatic life and submerged aquatic vegetation, noise and air quality, hazardous materials, archeology, historic buildings or structures and socioeconomic considerations. 



NJTPA is administering the project, however the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides the funding.  Any transportation projects receiving Federal funding must also follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.  The South Front Street Bridge LCD Study must identify any environmental concerns and develop an environmental profile.  When analyzing alternatives, one looks to avoid or minimize environmental impacts and if that’s not possible then to provide mitigation.  The environmental resources include air, noise, hazardous or contaminated sites, parks, wetlands, water resources, social and economic impacts, and cultural resources such as historic structures and facilities.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Bureau of Environmental Program Resources (BEPR) oversees this aspect of the project in cooperation with NJTPA and Union County to coordinate with the permitting agencies such as NJDEP and SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) to develop a cohesive plan for proposed improvements.  The agencies look carefully at comments from the public and thus community involvement is an important part of environmental process and moving the project forward with consensus and environmental compliance.  The results of the environmental screening, which is in the project schedule, will be presented at the public meetings.  A good Purpose & Need Statement and documentation is important for the review agencies to work well with the project team in moving the project forward from the LCD Phase to design and construction.  Community involvement is an integral part of this process and the LCD Study.


Q. Why get involved?
A: The primary tasks of stakeholders and engaging public opinion is to assist in the development of the Project Purpose and Need Statement, aid in the development of conceptual alternatives, identify possible fatal flaws, and weigh in on the recommendation of the Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA) based on the Project Purpose and Need.

The Project Team is very interested in knowing how the local community uses the bridge, any current traffic problems and how the public sees alternative solutions.  Community Outreach during the planning stage is a vital part of the LCD process and we encourage the community to follow, participate and help make sure every potential effective element has been considered and examined for its viability.


Q. Why attend the public meeting?
A: Public meetings are good way to make your voice heard and insure a successful project further down the road.  If you are unable to attend a meeting, you can keep tabs on new project developments by visiting this Web site and reviewing the meeting minutes and PowerPoint presentation.  Naturally, coming out to the meeting is the best way to stay involved and get your answers first hand with the project team present.  However, if you still have questions we’ve made it easy for you to reach your County official directly by using the online contact form.


Q. How can I stay informed or offer suggestions?
A: Union County and the cooperating agencies, NJTPA and NJDOT, are committed to developing transportation improvements that best balance transportation needs, the environment, community concerns and cost.  As part of the Community Outreach effort, numerous meetings will be held to share project information, obtain input. 

Please:

  • Check this Web Site regularly for updated information
  • Complete the Stakeholders Survey or the Public Comment Form
  • Attend Public Information Center meetings

Q. What if I have other questions or concerns about the project?
A: Union County and the cooperating agencies, NJTPA and NJDOT, encourages community members to voice their concerns and contribute suggestions to the Project Team. To provide input, attend one of the public meetings or contact:

Paul J. Leso, P.E
County Supervising Engineer
County of Union, Division of Engineering         
2325 South Avenue
Scotch Plains, NJ  07076
Tel: 908-789-9075
Fax: 908-789-3674
pleso@ucnj.org
Thomas O. Mineo, P.E.
County Engineer
County of Union, Division of Engineering


Glossary

DEP - Department of Environmental Protection
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/

FHWA – Federal Highway Administration
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/

LCD Study – Local Concept Development Study

NEPA – National Environmental Policy Act
http://www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/

NJDEP – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/

NJDOT – New Jersey Department of Transportation
http://www.nj.gov/transportation/

NJDOT BEPR - NJDOT Bureau of Environmental Program Resources
http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/Environmental/

NJTPA Local Project Delivery Process - Project Stages and Major Tasks
Local Capital Project Delivery Process (LCPD) Program (PDF - 23KB)

NJTPA Concept Development Phase - Process Flow Chart
LCD Flowchart (PDF - 365KB)

Project Team – is composed of members representing Union County, NJTPA, NJDOT Local Aid, NJDOT BEPR, the prime consultant design engineering firm, Hardesty & Hanover, LLC and other supporting consulting firms for engineering, environmental, cultural and community involvement support. Organizational Chart (PDF - 523KB)

SHPO – State Historic Preservation Office
http://www.nj.gov/dep/hpo/

Union County – http://www.ucnj.org/