March 11, 2020

Alexander St. Bridge Reconstruction Project Approaches Completion

REOPENING SOON: Alexander Street is scheduled to reopen by April 20 after almost six months of collaborative construction work by the county and state on two aging bridges and a culvert. 

By Donald Gilpin

After nearly six months of detours and traffic delays throughout the Princeton area, motorists will be happy when they can once again travel in and out of Princeton on Alexander Street, where an extensive bridge construction project is scheduled to be completed by April 20.

“Everyone is looking forward to the bridge reopening, especially daily commuters who bore the brunt of the increased traffic,” said Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. “The county and the state did an excellent job keeping the project on schedule. And I am especially thankful to Princeton University, Princeton’s merchant community, and NJ Transit for working in advance with the municipality to plan around the bridge closure and help mitigate the impacts.”

The section of Alexander Street/Alexander Road between Lawrence Drive and Canal Pointe Boulevard has been closed since November 6, as the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and Mercer County Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (MCDOTI) have replaced two aging bridges and a culvert that span the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal, Stony Brook, and a tributary to Stony Brook.

The bridges, which were over 70 years old, in poor condition, and too narrow for today’s traffic, are in the final stages of being replaced with safer and wider roadways to improve traffic flow, as well as shoulders and sidewalks on both sides.

Expressing some concerns over delays and the contractor’s ability to meet the April 20 deadline, the county engineer’s office on Monday described the work as “ongoing.” Utility work by American Water and PSE&G needs to be completed before “remaining approach roadway work, including milling and resurfacing, drainage, curbing, guiderail, and striping” can take place.

Assistant County Engineer Basit A. Muzaffar wrote in an email on on Monday, “PSE&G is scheduled to commence their work on March 14. All in all, if PSE&G (gas) can get in and out quickly, we should be in good shape.”

NJDOT and Mercer County have worked cooperatively and simultaneously to replace bridges under each of their jurisdictions. NJDOT, owner of the D&R Canal Bridge on Alexander Road

in West Windsor, contracted with Anselmi & DeCicco, Inc. to replace their bridge structure, while MCDOTI contracted with Marbro, Inc. to replace the truss bridge over Stony Brook and a stream culvert located south of Lawrence Drive. Project schedules were coordinated to minimize the duration of traffic impacts. 

“This is a remarkable example of the county and the state working together with the municipality to think through a project and execute it with the least discomfort to the community,” said Princeton Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton. “We’ve also been blessed with good weather.“

Stockton noted a number of challenges involved with the complex project, not the least of which was the timing. The county was originally ahead of the state in the planning and design process, which typically takes three to five years. The state expedited its preparations to catch up with the county so that the two entities could complete their work simultaneously and keep the construction process in a six-month time frame.

“This was a great example of collaboration and how to work together,” Stockton said. Princeton Police Department Chief Nicholas Sutter complimented area motorists on their adaptability during the months of traffic stress. “While it has been inconvenient for many, I have to say that the overall traffic volume impact on our local roads has not been as bad as we expected,” he said. “People seem to have adapted very well.”

He continued, “This is not to say that at times arteries like Washington Road and Harrison Street do not feel an impact, but overall it has been better than expected.”

Stockton also reported that the NJDOT is in the concept development phase of planning for the replacement of the Washington Road Bridge, a project that will take place in two to five years. 

The NJDOT has honored the municipality and county’s request that Washington Road construction not reduce travel lanes, so all the proposed alternatives include keeping traffic flowing in both directions during construction. The NJDOT is also planning, two to five years in the future, to replace the Quaker Road Bridge over the D&R Canal.