NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The state of New Jersey announced today that is will be allocating a grant of $1 million towards replacing the bridge over the Green Brook at Netherwood Avenue between North Plainfield and Plainfield. The funding is from the NJDoT Division of Local Aid and Economic Development.
“The Local Bridges, Future Needs Program provides funds for counties to replace, repair, or improve bridges within each county without burdening local property taxpayers,” said NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox said.
The grant will be allocated to Union County, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Netherwood bridge. According to Union County officials the grant will fund about half of the bridge.
“The grant doesn’t fully fund the bridge replacement,” said Union County spokesman Sebastian D’Elia. “It will mostly fund the deck.”
There are 18 bridges over the Green Brook between the city and borough, management and repair of which are shared by the counties of Somerset and Union. Somerset is responsible for the bridges to the west of Watchung Avenue, and Union is responsible for those to the east.
Union County has no schedule yet for replacement of the bridge, and has not yet drawn up specifications for bidders or completed engineering. Somerset County will not be contributing funds towards the project.
In 2001 Somerset County and Union County engineers requested a joint meeting of the Borough City Councils to discuss the bridges, proposing the removal of a total of eight bridges with structural deficiencies, including the Netherwood Bridge. At the time the estimated cost for replacing a bridge was $1.5 million, while the removal of a bridge was put at $500,000. The county authorities estimated public savings of as much as $8 million.
The two towns met on at least three occasions in both municipalities to discuss the closure, with Plainfield’s representatives opposing the closure of any bridge because they lead into economic growth areas. North Plainfield’s council supported removing four on residential streets with no access to Route 22 to regulate traffic and reduce speeding on side roads.
Netherwood is a vital bridge to both communities, serving as a conduit from the borough to the city and the Netherwood New Jersey Transit Train Station. As a result, both communities removed it from consideration for removal during the meetings.
In full disclosure, this reporter was a member of the North Plainfield Borough Council and participated in these meetings. Current Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp was a Plainfield Councilman, and was also a participant.
The county representatives had left it to the municipal leaders to come to a resolution, and since no agreement could be reached the decision was made to replace the bridges that were becoming unsafe. As a result bridges at a number of crossings have been replaced, including at Norwood, Sandford and Chatham Avenues. The Geraud Avenue Bridge has been left unrepaired since 1999, when it was damaged irreparably by Hurricane Floyd, the storm that ravished Central New Jersey.
The Norwood Avenue bridge will be the sixth replaced in the past decade.