Government

After Latest Executive Order from Governor Christie, City of Summit Officials Await Updated Bridge Construction Status

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City officials are awaiting word on the status of the Morris Avenue Bridge replacement project. Credits: City of Summit
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SUMMIT, NJ - In the wake of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announcing the enactment of Executive Order 213 -- under which the state Treasurer "is directed to make available general funds for expenses determined to be absolutely essential for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the State of New Jersey, or that are required to ensure the receipt of federal funding, in accordance with Executive Order 210, until the Governor determines an emergency no longer exists" -- City of Summit officials are awaiting word on whether the Morris Avenue Bridge project will resume and, if so, when.

“Until we have received official confirmation that the Morris Avenue bridge project is contained on the recently issued temporary essential projects list, I will continue to work with members of Common Council and city staff to press the vital of interests of Summit to the state,” said Summit Mayor Nora Radest. “I urge citizens to do the same.”

With the State Transportation Trust Fund Authority having virtually exhausted all of its available funds, Christie -- in a statement on nj.gov -- said, "No evident progress has been made by the Legislature to pass a single, viable bill to reauthorize the TTFA, A well-maintained transportation infrastructure is essential to the operation of New Jersey's economy and the people who rely upon it in all aspects of their daily lives. The current situation will persist until the Senate and the General Assembly pass an acceptable TTFA funding bill. Until they do so, the State must use money from the General Fund for emergency road, bridge, and mass transportation work.”

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On June 30, Christie issued Executive Order No. 210, ordering the shutdown and causing work on the 18-months-long Morris Avenue Bridge project and road work on Ashwood and DeForest Avenues to be halted July 8.
 
At that time, Radest said, “In the absence of a state legislative solution to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, various funding sources for the Morris Avenue Bridge project and two other smaller projects in Summit will be frozen as of July 8,” before adding, “NJ Transit will have a seven-day period to review and provide recommendations for the best use of remaining Transportation Trust Fund monies. I have been and will remain in close contact with local legislators and continue to urge NJ Transit to recommend funding be preserved for this vital infrastructure work.”
 
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) and NJ Transit (NJT), on July 6, compiled and identified a list of projects funded through the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) that are subject to an orderly shutdown in the wake of the state Senate failure to act on the Assembly Transportation Trust Fund package that would have provided every New Jersey family two broad-based tax cuts that exceeded a dedicated gas tax increase proposed in the legislation.
 
The plan exempts projects deemed essential for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of all citizens and will not impact projects funded through federal sources. A list of projects that are funded through the Transportation Trust Fund and are subject to the orderly shutdown can be found at state.nj.us/governor.

 
The bridge over the Morris & Essex rail line has been closed since Aug. 11, 2015 for rehabilitation to improve structural integrity, increase load carrying capacity, and improve traffic, pedestrian and railroad safety. It is being replaced by New Jersey Transit, with funding from the State Transportation Trust Fund.
 
Less than 10 days ago, New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney told northjersey.com, that the freeze -- which has halted transportation projects throughout the Garden State -- is likely to last into the fall and perhaps past the November elections.
 
Sweeney's comments elicited a strong response from Radest who said, "Our legislature and Governor have let everyone down with the shutdown of these vital transportation projects. We rely on our elected officials to represent our best interests. This is a conscious decision to do the exact opposite and choose politics over the needs of the people of the state of New Jersey.”
 
Radest continued, “Once the Transportation Trust Fund issue is resolved, it will take several weeks or months for work on our Morris Avenue bridge replacement project to get going again, and that delay is unacceptable. I continue to work with members of Common Council and city staff to press the vital of interests of Summit to the state and I urge citizens to make their voices heard as well.”
 
Sources indicate the interruption may have an even greater impact on the project's completion date, originally slated for spring of 2017, than just the net length of the delay. Construction companies have likely moved on to other projects, and it is unlikely the Morris Avenue Bridge project work would resume as soon as the freeze is lifted, meaning it could take up to a year from the re-start date to reach project completion.

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