WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Orton Road Bridge in West Caldwell, a 19th century structure that was damaged during a rainstorm in 2018 and needed to be replaced because it was structurally obsolete, has been officially dedicated back to the township after the county’s summertime efforts to preserve its historic character. Salvaged stonework from the original bridge was incorporated into the façade of the new structure.
According to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., the bridge was “an iconic symbol of West Caldwell and community input to preserve the historical integrity of the structure was strong.”
“We are proud to have worked cooperatively with the township and Historical Society to develop a plan that provides West Caldwell with the modern infrastructure it deserves while preserving its past," said DiVincenzo. "This is another example of how we have been able to modernize our infrastructure to ensure it meets the changing needs of our residents.”
Mayor Joseph Tempesta added that this was “a complete team effort and another great project by Essex County.”
“Not only is the history of our township preserved, but the new bridge enhances safety for motorists and pedestrians. It's a great day for West Caldwell," said Tempesta, who was accompanied Council President Joe Cecere and Councilman Stephen Wolsky during the dedication ceremony.
According to the county, the former stone and masonry structure was constructed around 1880 and was about 42 feet long over Pine Brook. The roadway was built on a series of piers that were about 12 feet apart and carried two lanes of traffic, one lane in each direction. A five-foot-wide wooden pedestrian walkway along the east side of the road was added to the outside of the bridge in 1959. Based on current design standards, the former bridge was "functionally obsolete."
In addition, the bridge sustained damage from floodwaters along the Pine Brook caused by a summer storm. Essex County Public Works crews stabilized the bridge structure allowing it to reopen while the new bridge was designed.
The new bridge is a three-span, precast concrete arch structure with stone facing. Like the original structure, there will be two travel lanes, one in each direction. A sidewalk will be provided inside the bridge parapet on the east side of the bridge.
Due to the year and manner of construction, the existing 1880s bridge is eligible for inclusion on the National and New Jersey Register of Historic Places, according to the county.
In order to preserve the historical character of the old structure, the county consulted extensively with the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office and the Historical Society of West Caldwell. To achieve this, the design of the new bridge mimicked the existing bridge's three-span, semi-circular arch configuration. In addition, the brownstones from the original bridge were salvaged during the demolition and reused in the construction of the fascia of the new bridge.
Frank Godlewski of the Historical Society of West Caldwell congratulated everyone involved in the project, stating that the Orton Road Bridge is very important to the neighborhood.
“It's a community anchor, and we appreciate the attention the county gave to our concerns when the bridge was replaced," said Godlewski.
Beverly Crifasi, also of the Historical Society of West Caldwell, added that the bridge was crucial to the history of West Caldwell and said she was grateful to the county for giving the bridge new life and for its commitment to “preserving our past.”
"There is no question the commitment of our county executive to improve our infrastructure, parks and quality of life,” said Brendan Gill, president of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. “This is just a beautiful project that the community can be proud of."
The bridge was reopened to pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic just in time for the beginning of the new school year, restoring regular access to the nearby Wilson Elementary School. After the road was reopened, the contractor completed the installation of the historic stone on the façade of the new bridge prior to announcing the completion of all construction.
Boswell Engineering from South Hackensack was awarded a professional services contract for $249,982 to design the new bridge. Reivax Contracting Corp. from Newark was awarded a publicly bid contract for $2,160,355 to perform the construction work.
The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. Funding was provided through grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation's Local Bridges Future Needs Program and Annual Transportation Program (ATP 2018).
Pictured above at the ceremonial ribbon cutting are: the county executive (center) with (from left) West Caldwell Council President Joseph Cecere, West Caldwell Councilman Stephen Wolsky, Freeholder President Brendan Gill, Freeholder Len Luciano, West Caldwell Mayor Joseph Tempesta, Essex County Public Works Director and County Engineer Sanjeev Varghese, Frank Godlewski from the Historical Society of West Caldwell, Lou Santana from Reivax Construction Corp., Chris Nash from Boswell Engineering, Beverly Crifasi from the Historical Society of West Caldwell, Assistant Essex County Engineer Luis Rodriguez, Roxanne Douglas from the Historical Society of West Caldwell and Chief of Staff Phil Alagia.