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Route 70 Road and Utility Upgrades Provide Better Connectivity in Southwest New Jersey

by: Larry Bernstein
Crews install a new storm pipe on a section of Route 70. The $151 million project upgrades many pieces of infrastructure in southwest New Jersey.
Crews install a new storm pipe on a section of Route 70. The $151 million project upgrades many pieces of infrastructure in southwest New Jersey.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is in the middle of a major capital project on Route 70. The long-term project, located in southwest New Jersey across the river from Philadelphia, was identified in 2011. Upon completion, the corridor will be modernized and safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Beyond the Pavement
In 2011, the NJDOT Pavement Management System (PMS) identified a nearly 9-mile-long corridor on Route 70 in need of pavement repair. Route 70, which cuts across the middle of the state, is primarily a two-lane highway. Motorists include daily commuters, commercial vehicle drivers, and beach lovers headed to the Jersey Shore. The average daily traffic count along the section of the corridor where the project is taking place is approximately 50,000 vehicles.

The existing pavement has various types of cracking and deterioration. “The driving factor for the project is the poor condition of the pavement,” says Parth Oza, Acting Assistant Commissioner for Capital Program Management for NJDOT. However, other issues, including those in the subsurface, require attention.

The project includes substantial work on utilities, drainage, curbing, and curb ramps. The team is also taking steps to ensure pedestrian facilities are up to date to meet current ADA requirements.

Going Deep
The team is performing a mill and overlay along the entire project length. Along 3 miles of Route 70, a full-depth pavement reconstruction is being done to maintain the overall pavement structure in areas where profile grades and cross slopes are being adjusted.

Other roadway and pavement improvements include:

  • Reconstructing deteriorated curbs and sidewalks throughout the majority of the project limits
  • Installing new sidewalks to fill in missing gaps and provide connectivity throughout the corridor
  • Reconstructing all 350 curb ramps throughout the project limits to be ADA-compliant
  • Upgrading traffic signing and striping
  • Upgrading guide rail
  • Reconstructing access to residential and business driveways that are impacted by the pavement reconstruction

Many of the corrugated water pipes are aged. The team is replacing all of them with larger reinforced concrete pipe. Additions include inlets, stormwater management basins, and manufactured treatment devices, designed for water quality and rate control. “This is part of NJDOT’s effort to build resiliency,” Oza says. “Some sinkholes have occurred in the area, so we are installing new pipes which will eliminate the issue.”

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The utility improvements include:

  • Replacing 15,200 linear feet of PSE&G cast iron gas main with 18,000 linear feet of 24-inch steel gas main.
  • Replacing 14,500 linear feet of New Jersey American Water (NJAW) water main
  • Relocating approximately 120 utility poles to accommodate a proposed sidewalk and curb ramps

As part of an effort to manage traffic and assist pedestrians, NJDOT is installing/making improvements to traffic and intelligent transportation systems. The technology-based systems will give the department a broader range of capabilities to manage traffic during project construction and beyond.

The improvements include upgrading all the signals along the corridor with smart technology known as an adaptive traffic signal control system. This system will interconnect all traffic signals to collect real-time traffic data and adapt traffic signalization to improve flow and reduce stops and backups.

Other improvements include:

  • Installing new ITS fiber-optic cable throughout the project limits
  • Installing new pedestrian countdown signals and pushbuttons at crosswalks.
  • Upgrading closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and installing two new Dynamic Message Signs and replacing the two existing DMS along the corridor.
  • Replacing existing streetlights with LED lighting fixtures and installing additional lighting at signalized intersections.
Flexibility and Communication
Like many current construction projects across the country, this one is dealing with supply chain issues. To keep to the schedule as much as possible, the contractor has had to pivot. “Flexibility goes a long way,” Oza says. He adds, “The schedule is highly variable and based on complexity.” 

The project includes multiple active work zones that are in different stages. So, if there is an issue related to supplies, the team can focus on another work zone, where they have the necessary materials. Another example of flexibility can be seen in the team working through the winter on suitable project elements.

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Adding to the need for flexibility is that the state is still obtaining some of the right of way.

With so many moving parts, communication is critical. This is also true when it comes to dealing with multiple stakeholders. The massive amount of utility work on the project can only happen by working closely with all the utility companies and coordinating. “It’s critical to make the facilities fit underground, so they can operate without conflict,” Oza says.

The work zone is highly trafficked, and NJDOT is determined to minimize the impact on motorists and keep crews and commuters safe. Therefore, construction that would require single lane closures in the two-lane section of the roadway be limited to night work. Single lane closures in the three lane sections will mostly be limited to nights and non-peak daytime hours.

Keeping Route 70 available for motorists is also impacting construction. The team is using trenchless directional drilling to install most of the ITS conduit. The Jack and Bore method will be used to install 36-inch steel casings for the 24-inch gas main at 16 feet deep where it passes under two of the culverts which cross Route 70 on the project. The remainder of the gas main will be installed using the open cut method.

State Funded
The $151 million construction contract is 100 percent state funded and it’s on budget so far. Oza credits the design team but recognizes that challenges may arise as the project progresses. Construction began in September of 2021 and is scheduled to be complete in early 2027.

New Jersey-based Richard E. Pierson Construction Co., Inc. is the general contractor. They have worked with NJDOT previously.

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When the team completes the project, motorists and pedestrians will have a safe corridor. They will enjoy better operational performance, and the roadway will have greater resiliency.

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