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New Jersey DOT Reconstructs Route 35 Bridge in Perth Amboy

by: Larry Bernstein
Konkus Corp., uses a Caterpillar 335F Excavator to demolish a section of the Route 35 Bridge in New Jersey.
Konkus Corp., uses a Caterpillar 335F Excavator to demolish a section of the Route 35 Bridge in New Jersey.
Imagine the immigrants who came to the United States on boats from around the world. One of the first glimpses of the United States that the anxious and excited immigrants saw may well have been Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The city is in northeast New Jersey and is on the Raritan River, which feeds into the Raritan Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean. Today, the city is a highly trafficked area and a key transportation spot. To keep it up to speed, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is working on a project on Route 35. 
Essential Connections
New Jersey Route 35, which runs nearly 60 miles off the Atlantic Ocean shoreline, passes through Perth Amboy. NJDOT is demolishing a four-lane bridge that passes over the Perth Amboy Connector. The bridge has an average daily traffic count of 22,000 vehicles per day.

The bridge, which was built in 1972, is in poor condition. The beams had spalled and delaminated concrete and there were cracks in the abutment walls. While the team considered repairing the bridge, they determined that it would be more fiscally responsible to replace it.

The Perth Amboy Connector, also known as County Route 624, links to the widely used Garden State Parkway and Route 440, which leads into Staten Island. The Garden State Parkway and Route 440 have a combined average daily traffic count of about 120,000 vehicles per day in the area. The bridge is just a couple of miles north of another bridge that crosses the Raritan River.

Keeping Up With Traffic
Because the bridge is vital, taking it completely out of service was not an option. “The department determined that would be best for commuters to construct the bridge in stages,” says Steve Schapiro, Project Manager with NJDOT. Until the new bridge is functional, the old bridge will remain in place.

The southbound side of the bridge is undergoing construction first. During the demolition and reconstruction of the southbound side of the bridge, traffic will be moved to the northbound side of Route 35. There will be just one lane available in each direction. Once construction of the southbound side of the bridge is completed, traffic will shift there, and the team will work on the northbound side.

The new bridge will be widened as it will have a 6-foot-wide shoulder in both directions. “With the addition of a shoulder, emergency vehicles will have easier access and backups will be minimized,” Schapiro says. Other scope elements include replacing guard rails and fencing to increase safety.

Feel the Vibration
Local contractor, Konkus Corp. – based out of Bedminster, New Jersey – is serving as the general contractor on the project. The company has worked with NJDOT on multiple occasions in the past and they were selected based on their submission of the lowest responsible bid.
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Working in a congested area brings up many challenges. Among the challenges the team is dealing with on this project is vibration.

Konkus installed vibration monitoring equipment to ensure the stability of several utilities and commercial buildings located near the bridge. Once the team installed the equipment, it began taking readings that were monitored and evaluated.

“This was necessary because heavy construction operations create vibrations and the department aims to limit the impact to the community,” says Schapiro. Vibration readings were still being evaluated at the time of publication, but if the team is satisfied with the results, demolition work will move forward.

The project required relocating utility poles and wires on the bridge. In addition, there are several sensitive utilities, including oxygen, nitrogen, petroleum, water, a main sewage line, and fiber optic cables under the bridge. Work must be done in a way that protects these utilities. Additional gas and water lines were installed after the original design was complete, which required changes to the plans.

Schapiro says, the team was able to resolve the issues related to the utilities by having, “extensive discussions and coordination with the utility owners and the contractor.” 

Working From a New Schedule
The project began in April 2022 and was originally slated to be complete this fall. However, due to the utility issues noted above, the new anticipated completion date is the fall of 2023.
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“The team is striving to complete the project in a timely manner despite the challenges that arose,” Schapiro says. He notes the team is working on a recovery schedule, which shows how the lost time can be recovered by accelerating the project.

The utility issues have also impacted the cost of the project. The original contract for the project was just under $10 million. Because of the utility issues encountered after the bid, the budget has increased to approximately $13.1 million. The majority of the costs are being paid for by the federal government – the state is contributing approximately 3 percent.

When the new bridge is complete, drivers will enjoy a smoother and safer ride. The added shoulders guardrail will also increase safety and allow drivers to pull off the road if a need arises. The view of Perth Amboy from Raritan Bay continues to change and progress.

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