BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council has taken another step toward repairing the municipality’s roadways, hiring an outside engineering consultant who will conduct a universal road assessment of all municipally-owned roads in the township.

The council voted unanimously June 15 to authorize the awarding of a contract to Pennoni Associates, Inc., to serve as professional engineers in conducting a road condition assessment and maintenance program in Bridgewater for a maximum amount of $38,650. The project will not include county, state or privately-owned roadways.

Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench said an infrastructure plan had been discussed quite a bit, but that there has been no long-term plan to handle it. Budget appropriations and fiscal responsibility also have to be taken into account for such a project.

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“The goal of this administration is to implement a plan,” said Moench. “This is the first step.”

He said the agreement will set the groundwork to build a long-term plan, with other items to be added on in the future.

Also present at the council’s online session that evening was a pair of Pennoni representatives, associate vice president Jerry Prevete and staff engineer Megan Todaro. The firm, which provides roadway solutions, has been in service since 1966 and employs a staff of about 1,200.

Todaro said Pennoni generates road surveys, compiling a digital roadway map by surveying roads with cellular applications mounted in vehicles. The applications scan roads at 10-foot intervals, and then generate an algorithm of road condition ratings that transition into a map.

A rating of “1” would be highlighted in green to mean “good,” scaling down to a “5” in red, which would indicate “poor.”

“It’s an overall big picture map of the township,” said Todaro.

Photographs and G.I.S. (Graphic Information System) data will also be provided, along with satellite maps, which Todaro said could be used in future years for budgeting purposes.

Council president Howard Norgalis asked how the applications will deal with scanning the width of municipal streets, especially if they exceed 30 feet.

Todaro said streets can still be done in one pass, and that roads will only have to be driven once to be scanned, except in the case of divided highways. She also said that two drivers will be used, after Norgalis brought up the fact that Bridgewater encompasses about 220 miles worth of streets.

Norgalis also asked how the program will assess streets with rough or damaged sections. Todaro said scans will be taken from intersection to intersection, and in separate parts, instead of a whole street at once, to better identify problems.

Councilman Allen Kurdyla asked about how the scans will address the underlying structure of roads. Prevete said problems will be found, and then engineers will design around those problems.

Prevete also said graphics will be provided, which the township could use to perform its planning, with G.I.S. to be the second phase in the two-fold project. An additional management package will include such items as street signs, manholes and corner drains.

Moench reiterated that the project will be handled in two phases.

“The end product will be a list of roads with the highest priority,” he said.

Other factors will also be of importance, such as the location of school buildings. Once the administration obtains costs, it could then build out a long-term spending plan.

“The public can see how we got there,” said Moench, with actual data to back up decisions.

He admitted there will still be budget considerations, and that this is merely the first step.

“At the end of the day, the goal is that it’s transparent,” said Moench.

Councilman Michael Kirsh asked if the two drivers will be taking photographs and notes on the roads they traverse. Todaro said the drivers will just be taking video images.

Kirsh then asked what will be done with multiple parked cars that were out on the road, which might potentially cover up road conditions. Todaro replied there is always that chance, and that the firm knows it cannot get everyone off the roads.

The software program, though, can recognize tires, and, in the overall picture, graphics can reveal road situations that are in poor shape, while averaging other less viewable areas with grades of “2” or “3.”

Councilman Timothy Ring asked about the timeframe to finish the project, and Prevete said it will be a 60-day turnaround. Ring then asked if the road rankings will be made available to the general public, and Prevete replied that everything will be available to the public so residents can understand how the plan was created.

“We hope to roll out a complete plan before we get into November, certainly before the end of the year,” said Moench.

Council vice president Filipe Pedroso asked about the rating system, and if there is a set standard across townships. Todaro answered that the same rating structure is used, regardless of township, and that everything is processed through a computer algorithm software system.

“Those are the ratings we go off of,” said Todaro, which Prevete added are entirely automated.

Moench said the township might prioritize some roads more highly, such as those that have heavy traffic, or are located near local schools. He added the project will give the township a baseline, with true analytical data, to make it all public “and go from there.”

Norgalis mentioned the program won’t tell the township if asphalt fails, or if drainage fails or other such underlying issues. Moench said it will be for the surface only, while Prevete answered it will still be a team effort.

“It’s just an assessment of the road itself,” said Prevete.

Kurdyla said the program will provide a top view of local roads, with engineering studies to be done later.

The resolution then passed by an affirmative vote of all five council members.

“In all my 12 years on council and now, as mayor, there is one issue that I hear about every day from our residents, the conditions of our roadways,” said Moench in a prepared statement. “While we await this road assessment plan, the township continues to try to move much needed new road projects, while pushing forward old projects that were funded in previous budget years, but have languished. 

“The condition of our roads should reflect the quality of our community, and I will be tireless in my effort to lay an aggressive yet sustainable path forward on this issue,” he added.