Township Council: Route 518 Bridge Work Is ‘Matter Of Life And Death’ And Should Be Restarted

Route 518 Bridge Work - 1

Construction equipment sits idle on the closed Route 518 bridge as a result of Gov. Christie’s Executive Order halting all state-funded road construction.

Saying its extended closure could endanger the lives of residents of Franklin and two other towns, the Township Council has asked state officials to resume work on the Route 518 bridge over the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

“Not to overstate it, but this is a matter of life and death,” Mayor Phillip Kramer said.

Work on the bridge was stopped on July 8 as part of Gov. Chris Christie’s Executive Order 210, which froze funding for all state Transportation Trust Fund-funded road construction projects not deemed as essential. Christie signed the order on June 30, after the state Legislature failed to enact a gasoline tax to re-fund the TTF.

The Rt. 518 project was one of several township projects affected by the work stoppage.

The $2.8 million bridge replacement project began on June 1. Full closure of the bridge occurred on July 6, even though it was known that work was going to stop two days later.

The DOT said that legally, it could not tell the bridge contractor to not close the bridge, even though it was known work would stop two days later, Deputy Mayor Ted Chase told the council.

The project was supposed to be completed by the first week of August.

Residents of Griggstown and Kingston could be affected by an extended closure of the bridge because the Rocky Hill Fire and First Aid companies, which render mutual aid and sometimes are the primary responders to fires and emergencies in those villages, cannot get there without the Rt. 518 bridge, according to the township’s resolution.

Kingston and Kendall park companies will provide backup, but the travel time is longer, and radio dispatch is complicated by the fact that neither of those companies are in Somerset County, according to the resolution.

Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents are affected by the extended closure because it adds 9 to 25 minutes to the transport time to University Hospital of Princeton in Plainsboro, and even more to the trauma unit of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-New Brunswick, from those towns, according to the resolution.

Route 518 is also the only river crossing, other than Amwell Road, which is capable of handling truck traffic, according to the resolution.

“It’s a hazard if there is a medical emergency,” Chase said of the closing.

The work “needs to be done as expeditiously as possible,” Kramer said.

The governing bodies in Rocky Hill and Montgomery have passed similar resolutions, and police department traffic safety units in the three towns have sent letters to the state DOT, asking for the project to be restarted.

Other TTF-funded projects – construction and non-construction – specific to the township affected by the governor’s executive order include:

  • $4.6 million project on Rt. 518 from Canal Road to Carroll Place
  • $250,000 project on John F. Kennedy Boulevard
  • $350,000 engineering work for the Rt. 518 bridge replacement over the D&R Canal
  • $92,500 concept development project for the Amwell Road bridge over the D&R Canal
  • $120,000 concept development project for Route 287 exit 10 ramp improvements
  • $155,465 in construction inspection contracts for the Rt. 518 bridge replacement over the D&R Canal


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