Downtown Streetscape Project Requires More Work, Additional Money
Township council approves resolution for additional grant money for project
The streetscape project to redesign the downtown corridor in West Orange will require additional work and money after construction hit a snag earlier this month, officials said.
A culvert in serious need of repair was discovered underneath the sidewalk outside Our Lady of Lourdes church on Eagle Rock Avenue, said Leonard Lepore, director of the West Orange department of public works and deputy head of engineering. He said the top of the culvert was "structurally deficient" and needed to be rebuilt before the street improvements could continue. Had the culvert been deeper in the ground, it would have been less problematic, he said.
"No one expected to have to deal with that," said Lepore.
He said the work will cost an additional $120,000 that will be funded by federal grant money. The extra cash was approved in a change order by the township council Tuesday night.
The improvements to the downtown are part of a $2.2 million grant that was awarded to the township through the Federal Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2005. The grant will allow aesthetic alterations to the intersections of Eagle Rock Avenue with Harrison Avenue, Main Street and Mississippi Avenue, and Main Street with Northfield Avenue in the St. Mark's area.
Though construction on Eagle Rock Avenue began in May and was slated to finish by the end of summer, Lepore said the additional work to the culvert and other glitches will delay completion until November.
There were also problems with some of the foundations of the buildings extending out into the sidewalks of the area that required adjustments to the design, said Lepore. Workers additionally struggled with "utility conflicts" as many utilities were improperly marked or unknown.
New traffic signals are on a two-week to two-month delay due to modifications in the plan and further approvals needed by the county, Lepore said. Until then, the area will continue to operate under existing traffic signals until the new signals arrive.
Lepore said work has already begun on the St. Mark section where Northfield Avenue and Main Street intersect. He said construction in that area would wrap up by Oct. 15 but exclude the new traffic signals.
Improvements in both areas include new sidewalks with brick pavers, new pedestrian lighting and new traffic signals with cameras. Officials hope the federally funded project will rake in new foot traffic to benefit local businesses.
The traffic island in front of Our Lady of Lourdes church will be eliminated to make room for a larger pedestrian plaza with seating, according to Lepore. The connector lane from Harrison to Eagle Rock avenues will also be eliminated, but car traffic will be able to turn on to Eagle Rock Avenue by going straight and making a full right turn, he said.
"We're going to crack a whip and get this done as quickly as possible," said Mayor Robert Parisi. He said Hurricane Irene also set back the project but assured residents Tuesday that the downtown corridor would soon get its much-needed face-lift. "This has been a priority in the administration ... by the new year, both intersections will look great."