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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 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 .

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 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."

Celeste September 29, 2011 at 03:00 PM
This is ridiculous. Again and again we are being taken like a fool. I drive by this intersection every day and I have noticed that these people are robbing us blind. How many months has it been since they started this project in front of Our Lady of Lourdes? and now "they hit a snag"? All that intersection needed was new asphalt and that's it! It would have only cost us a few thousand dollars, but no, we have to dig up the sidewalk and then the street. Why not check under the church as well, maybe they can find a structural problem as well.......please, people let's speak up and demand without further money to have this project finish by the end of October.
Ryan September 29, 2011 at 04:43 PM
It's federal, not local, money, and it's already been allocated for this specific project. You would have them not spend it? In this day and age of very tight local budgets and people out if work, you don't turn down federal money. I'm sure it's inconvenient for you as you drive by, but hey, broken culverts happen. I'm going to trust the town engineer on this one. I just hope this whole project has a positive outcome for local businesses. I think it'll require more than beautification but it's a start.
Celeste September 29, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Federal, state or local money comes from all of us. What matters is that the work in that corner is over redundant and the only ones benefitting is not the local businesses, it's the construction company, period. I'm no expert in construction work, but I'm not a fool neither. What the local business need is definately not an overpriced corner project. Has anyone asked what the local business "needs" are? What I agree with Ryan is in one thing and that is HOPE. We hope that the businesses in Main Street improve their revenues and sales.
Loren Svetvilas September 30, 2011 at 02:45 AM
I agree with you Ryan, except for your statement that you trust the town engineer. I've seen the shady side of this town, and will never trust the planning board, zoning board, nor the town engineer. But hooray for the beautification.
Tom G. September 30, 2011 at 04:37 PM
If you read the rest of the articles on this site, there were 2 armed robberies on Main St. within the past week. One of them was in the commuter lot right next to Lourdes. This type of criminal activity needs to be brought in check before any type of "beautification" project will make any difference.
Ryan September 30, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Mac is right. As I said above, beautification is a start but is not sufficient on its own.
Loren Svetvilas September 30, 2011 at 10:50 PM
I agree...in part. If we improve the way an area looks, and of course monitor the area to keep it safe, then more businesses will want to open up shop. With more businesses come more foot traffic. Hopefully this foot traffic will be of the positive type, not the criminal.

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