Temporary bridge planned for Route 15 South

JEFFERSON. The project to restore two lanes of traffic is expected to take about six weeks.

| 10 Jun 2024 | 09:07

After closing Route 15 South earlier this week because of an unsafe bridge over the Rockaway River, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) said it plans to construct a temporary bridge to restore two lanes of traffic while work continues to replace the 124-year-old bridge in Jefferson.

Southbound traffic was reduced to one lane Monday, June 3, when movement was observed on the bridge abutments, according to a statement from the department.

“On Tuesday, June 4, the roadway exhibited distress and NJDOT made the decision to fully close the bridge to traffic out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the safety of the public and workers.”

The DOT will install a temporary two-lane bridge structure that spans the closed bridge. It is expected to be open to traffic in six weeks, subject to delays because of weather or unforeseen factors.

Construction of the new southbound bridge will continue on an accelerated schedule to meet the original expected completion time of fall 2025, the agency said.

The new bridge, estimated to cost $11.6 million, will be a single-span concrete box beam structure with two 12-foot-wide travel lanes, 10-foot-wide inside and outside shoulders, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

“DOT officials continue to work with local officials to address concerns and monitor traffic and signal timings on the detour route. Adjustments will be made where possible to mitigate congestion,” the department said Friday.

A website is being developed to provide project updates and additional information to the public.

Local businesses on Route 15 southbound are open and accessible via a designated lane.

A detour, which was implemented Tuesday, will continue until further notice:

• Motorists on Route 15 southbound wishing to take the bridge over Rockaway River will be directed to take the ramp to Edison Road/Lake Hopatcong/Mount Arlington/U and Left Turns, which is about two miles north of the bridge.

• Continue on Edison Road/Route 615.

• Turn left onto Espanong Road/Route 615, which becomes Minnisink Road.

• Turn left onto Berkshire Valley Road.

• Take the ramp for Route 15 southbound.

Jefferson Mayor Eric Wilsusen, who has been posting updates on Facebook, on Friday said, “We have been informed that construction will be 24/7” on the temporary bridge.

Meanwhile, officials are working on plans to force truck traffic onto alternate routes, he said. “Today, we are continuing our collaborative efforts with NJ DOT and Morris County officials to improve the diversion/detour plan and to gain better access to our local businesses.”

’Extended closure’

The Route 15 South bridge over the Rockaway River between Taylor Road and Cedar Terrace in Jefferson was closed Tuesday, June 4 because of concerns about its structural integrity, Wilsusen said that day. “We are told this will be an extended closure, and there is no projected time frame for reopening at this time.”

On Wednesday, June 5, he provided details, saying Jefferson officials had received a news release from the DOT on Monday evening, June 3 about a lane closure at the Route 15 South bridge over the Rockaway River.

“By Tuesday, June 4th morning, we were informed there an issue with the existing Route 15 South bridge; it apparently started to shift. NJ DOT officials came out to do a further inspection after the lane closure, hoping to keep the one lane open, but they discovered it was still shifting. NJ DOT engineers decided it was unsafe, and at around 2 PM, NJ DOT decided to close the bridge due to safety concerns.”

On Thursday, June 6, he said a left-through lane has been created to allow better access to the businesses and residences along the top portion of Route 15 South.

“All traffic going Route 15 South needs to stay right through the detour. Access to businesses can now proceed to the left and through to any of the businesses and residences. At this time, you can only proceed southbound to the northbound turnaround.”

Earlier Thursday, Jefferson Police Chief Paul Castimore issued a state of emergency declaration listing Route 15 South between Taylor Road and Cedar Terrace as a disaster area.

“Route 15 southbound between Taylor Road and Cedar Terrace will be closed to vehicular traffic until further notice while the state of New Jersey DOT performs emergent repairs to the bridge over the Rockaway River which is within the disaster area,” the declaration says.

The mayor said the declaration may help Jefferson recoup some costs resulting from a structural failure of the bridge and its closure.

“On Tuesday, June 4, the roadway exhibited distress and NJDOT made the decision to fully close the bridge to traffic out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the safety of the public and workers.”
- New Jersey Department of Transportation