Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
NJ Gov Christie: "Chewed Away" Shore Road Will Be Rebuilt
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 05:23 PM
A coastal Jersey roadway ravaged by Sandy will take two years and over $215 million to repair.
Speaking Tuesday in the shore town of Lavalette, Governor Chris Christie said the state has received federal funding to rehabilitate a 12.5 mile stretch of Route 35 running from Point Pleasant Beach to Island Beach State Park. The road, which is a block from the Atlantic Ocean, "sustained some of the most severe damage in the state," said Christie. "Thousands of truckloads of debris and sand" were removed in the days after the storm, he said, and the road was "chewed away" in places. In Mantoloking (see above), the storm cut a new inlet between the ocean and the bay.
Christie said the scope of the damage left him with a decision: "Build back to where we were, or rebuild better and stronger." He added: "our decision is to rebuild better and rebuild now."
The new roadbed will be 24 inches thick instead of the current eight -- incorporating both an asphalt pavement top and sub-base materials to act as drainage and stabilization. There will also be a new drainage system and pump stations. "The new system will be built to handle 25-year storms, which is the maximum attainable given the peninsula's geology," reads the press release.
That's reasonable, says Dr. Tom Bennert, pavement expert at Rutgers' Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation. He said the force of the water generated by Sandy was tremendous.
"It would be very difficult for any structure, even pavement, to withstand that," he said. "A 25-year flood, based on the geology, based on the fact that there is quite a high water table in that area, you’re only going to be able to drain so much, is a very realistic target."
Bennert said he was glad to see the state pay attention to the drainage system, which he said is critical. "It’s kind of hard to visualize," Bennert says, "because when we’re driving on the road we just see the top. But really there’s six to 12 inches of asphalt below that, then granular material used as a foundation to support the asphalt." That granular material provides drainage to make sure if water gets in, it doesn’t stay there.
Bennert also said Route 35 needed work even before Sandy hit. "A lot of our pavements in this state have lived past their design life," he said, and that includes Route 35. "It was a pavement that was built quite a while ago and honestly...really needed to be reconstructed to begin with."
The project is being divided into three phases. The first section of the road to be repaired will be the northernmost stretch, which currently has just one travel lane open in each direction. Work will begin this summer.
According to New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Greeley, "the Complete Streets model has been incorporated into our design for all three contracts." He says the state will be installing new sidewalks, as well as upgrading many existing intersections with ADA-compliant curb ramps, high visibility crosswalks and some pedestrian signal heads at certain locations.
Greeley adds: "While there are no dedicated bike lanes planned, the reconstructed roadway shoulders will be built to the same strength as the travel-lanes and will therefore provide a safer and smoother ride for cyclists."
The New Jersey Department of Transportation says that while it tries to limit summer construction along shore highways, work on Route 35 will be ongoing throughout 2013. At least one lane of traffic will be open in each direction at all times.
To watch Governor Christie make the funding announcement, see the video below.
For more, check out the WNYC series Life After Sandy.