WEST ORANGE, NJ - Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo announced plans on April 14 for the $30 million reconstruction of South Orange Avenue along the two-mile stretch that passes through South Mountain Reservation.
The South Orange Avenue Safety Improvement Project is the largest in Essex County in over thirty years. Curves along the road will be flattened, storm drainage will be upgraded, and vehicle safety improved, according to contemporary traffic design standards.
The program, expected to last two years, is federally funded through a transportation grant. Work has already begun in the area. One lane will be closed in both directions, though closures are not expected.
“The public relies on our network of County roads to travel to work, school and conduct their daily lives, and South Orange Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare. While stretches of road through Essex County South Mountain Reservation offers some picturesque views, the sharp turns and lack of shoulders on the side of the road create hazardous driving conditions and are prone to flooding,” said DiVincenzo.
He continued, “The Federal Highway Administration identified this section of South Orange Avenue as being dangerous over a decade ago and we are pleased that federal money was made available to make these improvements."
According to the County Executive's office, The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) determined that the "1.6-mile section of South Orange Avenue between the intersection of Brookside Drive/Cherry Lane in Millburn to the intersection with Harding Drive in South Orange as being deficient as many as 10 years ago. The road in that area floods regularly and, as a result, is usually closed to traffic during inclement weather. In addition, the sharp curves in the road and the lack of a shoulder result in limited sight lines, and make entering and exiting existing turnoff areas very difficult and dangerous."
In addition to the improved access to South Mountain Reservation, the South Orange Avenue Safety Improvements Project will address the following issues:
The roadway will be re-aligned to reduce sharp curves;
The roadway will be widened to create a shoulder in the eastbound direction;
Ttraffic signal equipment at the Brookside Drive/Cherry Lane in Millburn and Glenview Road in South Orange will be updated;
"Retention swales" will be constructed roadside to tackle flooding and water runoff from the road into the reservation;
Guide rails (aka Guard rails), along with additional lighting (traditional "cobra head" overhead lights and decorative gas lamps) will be installed to address safety issues;
A new pedestrian bridge over South Orange Avenue near the Girl Scout Camp will be built and an existing pedestrian and horse bridge will be reconstructed and designed with stone facing;
Turnoff lanes and parking areas will be renovated to improve visibility and improve entrances and exits.
In addition, the County plans to plant 3,600 trees and enhance landscaping. This will address the loss of 430 trees during the project. The County will also replant areas in the reservation affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“My administration has focused our attention on preserving and expanding our open space inventory throughout Essex County," said DiVincenzo.
"While the roadway construction will have an environmental impact, we are mitigating this by planting thousands of new trees, addressing water run off by improving road drainage and accelerating regrowth of areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy with new landscape and plantings.”
The consulting engineer firm of French and Parrello Associates of Wall, NJ, received a $1.6 million contract to design the roadway improvement plans. New Prince Concrete Construction from Hackensack was awarded the publicly bid contract for $25,915,389.50 to perform construction, which will be monitored by The Essex County Public Works Department.