Spanning Nearly Three Years, Summit's Morris Avenue Bridge Project Concludes with Thoroughfare's Opening

A trio of politicians, from left, Summit Mayor Nora Radest, Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz, and New Jersey Senator Tom Kean perform 'The Snip Heard 'Round The Hilltop City'. Credits: Melanie Wilson / TAPinto Summit

SUMMIT, NJ - After a nearly three-year long shutdown, the Morris Ave Bridge has reopened to cars, bikes, and pedestrians.  With fanfare and excitement, the first cars made their way across the span after a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 29 at 5:30 pm.  

Elected city and state officials, City staff, and community members gathered on the bridge, as the early 'crossers' honked their horns for the crowd, which cheered and applauded.

The crowd of about 50 was happy to get their bridge back. Summit Mayor Nora Radest and Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz addressed the crowd. Radest discussed the collaborative efforts spanning several administrations that were required to plan and administer the repair. Muñoz talked about improved safety, particularly for Summit’s school children who walk across the bridge. New Jersey Senator Tom Kean was also in attendance, as were Councilmen Beth Little, Marjorie Fox, Mary Ogden, Stephen Bowman, and former Councilman Dr. Robert Rubino.

Sign Up for E-News

City of Summit Communications Officer Amy Cairns said that no one from New Jersey Transit was in attendance as they were “focusing on the budget crisis.”

The New Jersey Transit project, which began on August 11, 2015, was expected initially to take 18 months to complete. The goal was to improve the bridge's structural integrity; increase load carrying capacity; and improve traffic, pedestrian and railroad safety.  

It took a while to get there.

About eleven months after it began in 2015, then Governor Chris Christie signed Executive Order 210 which put an immediate halt to “non-essential” projects funded by the Transportation Trust Fund.  A brokered settlement, where the gasoline tax was increased by 23 cents-per-gallon to 37-cents-per-gasoline took effect November 1, 2016; this tax increase restored funding to the financially-depleted state Transportation Trust Fund.  That state-imposed shutdown lasted about four months.

The 113-year-old bridge was used by the state as an example of New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure when the project began. The Department of Transportation deemed it was too dangerous to allow trucks and cars to continue to cross it.  About 14,000 vehicles crossed the heavily-traveled expanse daily, they said.

Fast forward through some tough snowy winters and wet springs that tacked numerous small delays onto the completion of the project. Commuter train schedules also limited the times when the construction crews were active.

In April 2018, Mayor Nora Radest said that the bridge was structurally complete, but that utilities, including the sewer lines, needed dry weather to be reconnected below the bridge.

She said, “Morris Avenue runs through the heart of Summit and having this section of roadway available again will help ease traffic congestion in a very busy part of town.”

Around Summit, residents took to social media to express delight.

Jacqueline Robinson said on Facebook, “I’ll be happy for the city buses to get off Summit Avenue ( hopefully!!) and back on Morris Avenue! They have been a huge hazard... the spot where they turn onto Summit from Broad Street is way too narrow and the bus drivers then go barreling down past Chase Bank. It makes your heart stop every time. I’m glad this ridiculous delay in bridge construction is coming to an end... finally!”

Karen Milne-Home also wrote on Facebook, “I think the new Tappan Zee bridge literally took as long to build as this repair!!”

Camellia Lowry-Redmerski said, “Construction started when my oldest started middle school and now he graduated middle school. I feel like I am going to forget that it is open for the first few weeks / months.”

Melissa Phillips said, “We live on Norwood Avenue, close to the corner of Norwood and DeForest. It has been a two- year-long nightmare and we are thankful nobody has been killed at that intersection. Traffic congestion in the morning and when all the schools ended every day was scary. I saw way too many near misses of people trying to cross the crosswalks. I did see and help with a few needless car accidents. Fortunately injuries were minor. I for one will be glad when the bridge reopens. Too much truck and bus traffic was rerouted through residential areas. Inconvenience is one thing but safety should always be a priority!”

On the City of Summit Facebook page, sentiment was greatly mixed, as many communicators called out New Jersey Transit for celebrating the conclusion of the project with a ceremony when it took so much longer than expected.

Dennis Allocco wrote, “Let’s just open the bridge! No need to recognize this long overdue albatross with pomp and circumstance.”

Many, like Loren Hamilton, agreed.  “An embarrassment. no need to celebrate with a ribbon cutting.”

The City responded, “Yes, no parade. No pomp and circumstance. The city is committed to opening the bridge to traffic as soon as the contractor clears out.”

Francoise Owarish is happy to say goodbye to the deluge of drivers who typically did not travel our roads.  “Bravo, “ she wrote. “I’ll attend happily driving over the three-year awaited bridge with a happy dance in my heart. I really hope we all understand what a gift that bridge is to us all, what a main vein it is for us all!!! I have hated “hated” seeing our beautiful downtown consumed with vehicles with drivers that aren’t polite, rude as heck, and clearly not part of our community, I say good riddance to them and happy to put them all right back on track on Morris Avenue and keep it them there and hello my downtown Summit, free of bus, craziness, and I might just cry.”

Renata Araujo thanked Radest for “staying on top of this as best you could, and for the many helpful video updates. I agree the timeline was shameful, and not an ‘accomplishment’ NJ Transit should celebrate. However, as a Summit resident, I want to celebrate the end of the chaos on the High street intersection just in time for my oldest to start High School in the Fall! Yay!”

The Morris Avenue corridor is a crucial link for vehicle traffic between Route 24 and Route 78.

Before the construction, Former City Administrator Chris Cotter said the bridge was built in 1905 and was put in place when the railroad tracks were lowered a few years later. The bridge “served us well,” he said..  “You don’t see that type of construction anymore.”

New Jersey Transit said that the project included reconstruction of the bridge abutments; replacement of the steel bridge superstructure and concrete bridge deck; widening of the bridge approaches to improve bridge geometry; construction and rehabilitation of the retaining walls, curbs, sidewalks and ADA ramps; installation of the ornamental railings on the bridge and the retaining walls; relocation of the traffic signal pole and the cantilever arm in the Morris Avenue and Kent Place Boulevard intersection; and installation of new traffic signage and striping.

NJ Transit spent approximately $12.9 million to complete the project.


TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

'Tired of cronyism? Yeah, us too'

July 21, 2018

The Union County Freeholders’ decision to appoint State Senator and newly-elected Union County Democratic Chairman, Nick Scutari’s chief of staff, Ed Oatman as County Manager smelled of corruption from the start. To place a political consultant like Oatman in the role of overseeing 2,800 employees and running the day-to-day operations of the $500 million county budget suggests ...

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...

Step Up and Build a Stronger Union County

July 22, 2018

Union County residents who are seeking a meaningful, high-impact way to volunteer in their community can sign up as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties.

The organization is currently seeking volunteer mentors for its best-known program, Community Based Mentoring. The program involves individual mentoring with a local child or teen, age 6 to 18, with a ...

Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — The Shrewd Mechanicals from the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre will perform Shakespeare Gumbo in the parking lot of Berkeley Heights Public Library, 110 Roosevelt Ave.,  on Friday, July 27, at 7:00 pm. 

Bring lawn chairs.  Change of location will be announced in case of inclement weather.

Local people with disabilities measure success and shortcomings of Americans with Disabilities Act

Local people with disabilities this month are lauding progress made since enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 28 years ago, but also point to the remaining distance between where they stand today and equal access to all sectors of the community.

Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals based on ...

Mayors Push for Law Permitting Driver's License for Immigrants

July 22, 2018

PERTH AMBOY, NJ - Five mayors from northern and central New Jersey today called for passage of a state law permitting immigrants to get driver's licenses even if they are undocumented, saying it boosts public safety as well as the economy.

"This is important for every resident for a better life and a better life for the state of New Jersey," said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, July 22, 2:00 PM

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Moths and other Pollinators

Education Green


Tue, July 24, 3:00 PM

Grillestone Restaurant , Scotch Plains

Hear the Story of Amelia Earhart, America's Most ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness


Wed, July 25, 1:30 PM

Trailside Nature & Science Center, MountainsidE

Trailside’s Annual Summer Wednesday Matinee ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sings Conclude with Verdi ...

Arts & Entertainment

And Over Here is the Dining Hall 2

My very first job in admissions was while I was still an undergraduate myself as a tour guide.  Very early on they indoctrinated us with some tricks of the trade.  It’s a dining hall, not a cafeteria.  A residence hall, not a dorm.  If you have to divulge some negative bit of information, sandwich it between two positives.  There were instructions for glossing over ...

Women Have Special Financial Needs That Advisors Overlook

Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for a male advisor to spend much or most of the face time in meetings talking to ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...