BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The effects of the ongoing re-construction on Washington Valley Road are continuing to be felt in Bridgewater Township.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso was the first to raise the subject at the May 6 township council meeting when he spoke about the work taking place on the main thoroughfare in the Martinsville area, which is expected to continue until late 2019.
“It seems to me it’s a huge mess,” he said.
He spoke of school buses being late or roadblocks placed in unusual locations, and asked how that was making things better for local residents.
Township administrator James Naples replied that the project is a county project. He said there had been coordination with both the school district and the town engineer, and that local police had helped with additional detour routes and with keeping vehicular speeds down in work areas.
“It’s a complicated project,” Naples said.
He added that it was the county that had said the road needed to be closed for drainage and curb work, and that the work is being done in sections.
Naples also said the project necessitated the usage of hard barricades, and that there is a full-time inspector working on the site. The contractor had also been advised that school buses simply had to get through, and that initially there had been some problems with that.
The inspector had ridden the same routes used by school buses to check on their current pathways, according to Naples, and it had also been decided that Dellwood Road would not undergo repairs until after the end of the current school year in June, as it provides a large circular turnaround for school buses.
Naples also said the county is updating its website with two-week lookouts concerning the Washington Valley Road project.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” said Naples.
Pedroso described the project as a “huge fiasco” from its start, and said he believes it should have been planned better. He also said he thought that Mayor Dan Hayes, who was not present at the council meeting, should have been more involved.
Naples countered that the mayor has followed up on the project, and had also spoken to the school superintendent about it. Pedroso responded that if that was indeed the case, then matters were even more frightening, as he said the mayor was not getting information to the residents and making the situation better.
“If (the mayor’s been) involved, it certainly hasn’t been a good job,” Pedroso said.
Council president Matthew Moench said he had sent a letter to the county regarding the project and its problems. He said the county correspondence he had received in turn related that Moench’s complaints were “untrue.”
Moench added that he had received dozens of complaints from residents, and that the apparent disdain of the county was “problematic for our residents.” County counsel William Cooper had supposedly also credited the mayor with sending correspondence, but Moench explained that he hadn't seen said correspondence, and added that more needed to be done regarding communication about on the construction, for the sake of the residents.
Resident Donna Kelly told the council that she had attended a meeting of the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders where Washington Valley Road was brought up. She said freeholder director Brian Levine is scheduled to come out and view the situation, about how school buses are not being let through construction barricades as the county does not wish to extend the project with delays.
“I don’t understand,” said Kelly, who added that it would take just 90 minutes in the morning and another 90 minutes in the afternoon of dedicated attention to let the buses through.
She also pointed out dangerous roads in the construction zone, such as Gilbride Road with its extra traffic and dump trucks, or other avenues with dangerous sightlines, and the hazards they present for school buses and the students they ferry.
She added that bus times have subsequently been pushed up 15 minutes, which makes it impossible for her to take her other children to another school.
“You can’t push the bus times,” Kelly said.
She said the solution is to simply open the barricades to let the school buses through, and cited the Mt. Airy Road project as one that had worked more smoothly.
Pedroso said that he had also written a letter to Levine. In the letter, dated May 3, he implored Levine to take immediate action regarding the Washington Valley Road project.
Pedroso suggested in the leltter that the county establish a website to provide better communication and informational updates regarding the project.
Pedroso said the lack of planning is just as serious as the lack of communication. He suggested keeping one lane of traffic open, with work occurring on just one side of the street at a time, and not blockading extended road areas that would not be reached by workers on a particular day, while also taking road safety matters into account.
"The point is, enough of doing nothing, the residents demand and deserve action," he said.
Following a meeting last week between the township, school district and police department, as of May 6, 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.
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.
Bridgewater Township Police Chief Al Nicaretta said, following last week's meeting, that the department has placed a sign board on Mayflower Court, asking soutthbound drivers to obey the speed limit, as well as one on Perrine. They have also conducted a speed study on the straightest part of April Drive, and are currently conducting another one on Gilbride Road.
Despite the one-lane road opening, residents have continued to express concerns this week about the construction, particularly with regard to students being on the buses for so long each day.