FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 2009
ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES COMPLETION
OF $3 MILLION RENOVATION TO ESSEX COUNTY WEEQUAHIC PARK BRIDGE
Complex Bridge Modernization Project is Finished Five Months
Ahead of Schedule
Newark, NJ - Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the completion of a $3 million project to rehabilitate the Essex County Weequahic Park Bridge in Newark on Thursday, November 12th. The complex modernization project took just seven months to finish, which is five months ahead of schedule. The renovated structure enhances traffic and pedestrian safety and restores easier access to the Weequahic Golf Course and the southern section of the Park.
"The Weequahic Park Bridge is an important structure that links two sections of the park together and provides vital access to the Weequahic Golf Course. Modernizing the structure will make it easier and safer to travel through Weequahic Park and will preserve an important and unique feature of our Park System," DiVincenzo said. "The restoration of the bridge was a challenging project because of the highway and rail lines that are located below it. We commend our consultants and contractors for getting the job done ahead of schedule to minimize disruption and we appreciate the cooperation and understanding we received from the public while the bridge was closed," he added.
Showing their support for the project by attending the announcement were Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley, Weequahic Park Association President Wilbur McNeil and WPA Executive Director Joe White.
The rehabilitation project started in March 2009 and consisted of several phases. During the first stage, steel shielding was installed below the Weequahic Park Bridge to prevent debris from falling on State Route 22 and two active rail lines operated by Consolidated Railway Corporation (Conrail) and keep the transportation lines open. During construction, the concrete deck and parapet walls were replaced, and columns and arches were repaired or reconstructed. The multi-faceted surface treatments on the parapets and tall pylons that provide visual interest were restored.
The original bridge was constructed in 1931 and crosses over State Route 22 and two active rail lines operated by Conrail that accommodates freight trains and NJ Transit passenger service. The Weequahic Park Bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in September 2007 after a routine inspection discovered the bridge deck had started to deteriorate.
The single-span bridge is 122 feet long and about 58.5 feet wide, which are the same dimensions of the original structure bridge. A New Jersey Historic Bridge Survey conducted from 1991 to 1995 determined that the Weequahic Park Bridge has historical significance. In addition to being located within Essex County Weequahic Park (which is a listed as a National and State historic site as part of the historic Essex County Park System), the structure was designed by noted engineer A. Burton Cohen, is part of a three-level crossing (with the rail lines and highway) and its open spandrel arch bridge design is uncommon in New Jersey. The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office issued a formal opinion in 2006 that the bridge is eligible on its own for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
TranSystems/Lichtenstein of Paramus received a $283,993 contract to design the bridge improvements and provide inspection services during the construction. Sparwick Contracting, Inc. of Lafayette was awarded a competitively bid contract for $2,670,282 to construct the new structure. The work was funded with a grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for bridge improvements.
Other bridges that have been upgraded are the Cleveland Street Bridge in Orange, North Willow Street Bridge and the Washington Street/Willowdale Avenue Culvert in Montclair, the Ridgewood Road Bridge, Passaic Avenue Bridge and Vauxhall Road Bridge in Millburn, Northfield Avenue Bridge over Canoe Brook and the Northfield Avenue Bridge over Bear Brook in Livingston, the West Oakwood Avenue Bridge in Livingston, Bloomfield Avenue Bridge and the Linden Avenue Bridge over the Peckman River in Verona, Park Avenue Bridge and Bloomfield Avenue Bridge in Newark, Hillside Avenue Bridge in Glen Ridge, Runnymede Road Bridge in Essex Fells, Kirkpatrick Lane Culvert in West Caldwell, Pier Lane Culvert in Fairfield, Grandview Avenue and Little Falls Road culverts in North Caldwell, and Madison Avenue bridge, Chancellor Avenue culvert and Springfield Avenue culvert in Irvington.
Revitalizing Essex County Weequahic Park
Over $6 million worth of improvements have been made to Weequahic Park in the last seven years. In October 2009, a comprehensive renovation of the Weequahic Park Golf Course was completed to modernize and upgrade conditions. A new synthetic grass surface baseball field and four new basketball courts were opened in November 2007. Essex County welcomed The First Tee and its nationally-recognized youth leadership training program to Weequahic Golf Course in 2006. The First Tee constructed a state-of-the-art, three-hole youth golf facility for its program adjacent to the golf course. The playgrounds at Building 92 near Meeker Street and Building 96 at the Chancellor Avenue entrance to the park were modernized with new equipment and rubberized safety surfaces in 2006. The tennis courts on Elizabeth Avenue were rebuilt in 2004.
DiVincenzo has partnered with the New Jersey Green Acres program, the Essex County Parks Foundation, Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, Weequahic Park Association and The First Tee to secure grants to fund the improvements in Essex County Weequahic Park.
The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system in the United States. It has been expanded to include about 6,000 acres of land and includes 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, miniature golf course, three dog parks, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Weequahic Park is 311.33 acres, is one of the original five County parks created in 1895 and is the second largest park in the Essex County System.