Whether they are passing through on their way to or from New York, heading to school, or traveling home from work, millions of people drive, walk, or use public transportation in Newark every day. The state’s largest city is a key transit center for the region, with train stations, hundreds of bus stops, a light rail system, interstate highways, county roads, an airport, and a seaport all within its roughly 26 square miles. Plus, while it may not be home to some of the region’s more notable crossings like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or the George Washington Bridge, Newark is home to a significant number of bridges, many of which are deteriorating.
In fact, city records show that a recent report by the Essex County Department of Engineering found that six bridges within city limits are under emergency status, while the structural deficiencies in seven others have been labeled as priorities. The six bridges in the most severe condition were identified as crossings that carry Heller Parkway, Park Avenue, Central Avenue, and Newark Street over the Newark Light Rail, along with the Haynes Avenue Bridge over the Northeast Corridor Line. The bridges over the Newark Light Rail have been in use for so many years that when these crossings were constructed, they passed over the Morris Canal, which preceded the subway system.
Now, emergency repairs are reportedly underway for the six bridges. A resolution from the Newark Municipal Council shows that Philip Scott, the Director of Newark’s Department of Engineering, requested that a state of emergency be declared for these bridges back in September. Following this declaration, a contract of up to $173,000 was issued to Sussex County-based Sparwick Contracting so that emergency repairs could be made to the bridges by Jan. 18.
However, according to the resolution, Sparwick sent a letter to the city nearly a month after repairs were supposed to have been completed asking for an extension to June 2 in order to finish the job, citing “extreme cold weather and excessive snowfall” this winter and a “delay in receiving temporary access permits” for the bridges over the light rail tracks.
The Council approved the extension in March, stating in the resolution that “it is imperative that the City of Newark permit Sparwick to complete the emergency bridge repairs to prevent any possible imminent hazards and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Newark.”
Officials have long been aware of issues impacting the Central and Haynes Avenue Bridges. In fact, the latter structure is currently closed so that the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s contractor can make repairs, while the Central Avenue Bridge is the subject of a new local concept development study by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in conjunction with local, state, and federal agencies. A report last year found that the structure is “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”