BRIDGEWATER, NJ - One lane will always be open and the buses will always be allowed through during construction, according to an update from the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District regarding concerns about ongoing construction causing busing delays and issues on Washington Valley Road.
Residents have been expressing concern since the start of the county's construction in mid April because of buses arriving late to pick up students, or not arriving at all. The district held a meeting with the county, township and police department to try and alleviate some of the problems.
Construction began in mid April on a project between Chimney Rock Road and 700 feet east of Eastbrook Road, and is expected to continue through late 2019.
The road improvement project will include the reconstruction of the roadway, shoulder widening, new roadway pavement and striping, installation of one mile of new storm sewer pipes, an upgraded traffic signal at Chimney Rock Road and a culvert replacement.
The county said a detour will be in effect, and a detour map can be found at http://bit.ly/WashValleyDetour. Access to Washington Valley Road will be for residents, emergency services and local service vehicles (like mail, garbage and recycling) only, while all other traffic will be detoured.
But many residents were finding that this detour plan and the promises of access for residents and buses was not coming to fruition.
According to a note from the district, although the county had communicated with officials from the beginning about the plans for the construction and how buses would be accommodated, those original plans were not followed and that, as well as changes to work schedules from the construciton company, has created many problems for students.
As of Monday, according to the district, there will, at all times, be a single safe throughway maintained during the construction. There may be times when the lane is closed to local traffic, but the buses will always be let through.
"This will alleviate the majority of the issues we have been experiencing," the note read.
The district noted that even with this, routes may still take longer because of slower speeds that the buses have to travel, as well as potential waiting times as they enter and exit the construction zone.
The district said it is in communication daily with the engineer on-site, and will continue to do so through the expected completion of the project in October.
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said that, despite concerns about students arriving late to school, they have not been missing instructional time, but the district does not want to put any added stress on the students.
With the change being made effective Monday, Lazovick said it is his understanding that all buses made the trip smoothly except for one going to Hillside Intermediate because the contracted driver did not follow the new directions. He said the district had moved the pick-up time up for students at that bus stop so the driver would be on time getting the students to school, but the driver did not follow those directions and students on that one route were late.
"Parents were outside at the bus stop early as per the schedule, so they had to wait an extra 15 minutes," he said. "But this has been addressed with the contractor."
Lazovick said this issue should be fixed for Tuesday's pick-up, and they are not anticipating any more delays or bus issues due to the construction.
"There should be few to no problems moving forward," he said.
Bridgewater Township Police Chief Al Nicaretta said that, following last week's meeting, the department is also doing what it can to minimize any problems on the road. The traffic unit, he said, has placed a sign board on Mayflower Court, asking soutthbound drivers to obey the speed limit.
"We have placed a digital speed sign on Perrine, which flashes and displays vehicle speed for eastbound traffic," he said. "We conducted a speed study on the straightest part of April Drive, the straightest section within the detour which should be the area with highest speeds, and we found the average speed waas 27 miles per hour."
Nicaretta said they are in the process of conducting another study on Gilbride Road to determine if there is a speeding problem there too.
"Upon completion of that study, we will install another digital speed sign on Gilbride," he said.
Nicaretta said that, over the weekend, the county had a number of issues with the full barricades getting moved and the road being opened. The county, he said, responded on several occasions to replace the barricades, and they are working with the county to come up with a solution to the problem.
The police department is reminding everyone to respect the closures and follow the posted detours on Washington Valley Road.
For continued information on the project, visit the county website at http://bit.ly/WashValleyRd.