Essex Exec Details $30M South Orange Ave. Improvements

Federally funded, $30 million project to reshape roadway through South Mountain Reservation.


From the office of the Essex County Executive:

On Monday, April 14th, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced plans for the largest road improvement project undertaken by Essex County in the last generation – the $30 million reconstruction of South Orange Avenue to flatten the curves in the road, enhance motor vehicle safety and storm drainage, and make the road meet modern traffic design standards. The two-year, federally-funded project focuses on the two-mile stretch of South Orange Avenue that passes through Essex County South Mountain Reservation.

Work on the project began earlier in April and is scheduled to continue for the next two years. During construction, one lane of traffic will be maintained in both directions; lane closures are not anticipated.

“The public relies on our network of County roads to travel to work, school and conduct their daily lives, and South Orange Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare. While stretch of road through Essex County South Mountain Reservation offers some picturesque views, the sharp turns and lack of shoulders on the side of the road create hazardous driving conditions and are prone to flooding,” DiVincenzo said. “The Federal Highway Administration identified this section of South Orange Avenue as being dangerous over a decade ago and we are pleased that federal money was made available to make these improvements,” he added.

Elected officials who attended the press conference voiced their support of the project:

“We have to do what is necessary to improve the safety conditions on our roads, and this project will do just that. The County Executive has placed a lot of attention on making this area a destination and improve the road conditions will make coming here more attractive,” Assemblyman Thomas Giblin said. “An added plus of this project is the jobs that will be created for the construction trades, who have been hurting over the last several years because of the difficult economy."

“This road is always closed at the beginning of very storm because the conditions become so compromised,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. “The work being done here is critical and crucial to the safety of our motorists.”

“I reside in the area, so I know how important this project is,” Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold said. “This stretch of roadway has always been a problem and we all knew it needed to be changed. I am so thrilled that we have reached the day when the changes will be made."

“Everyone who drives along the S-curves knows the road could be safer. Public safety is our number one goal, and the goal of this project is to improve the road,” Freeholder Leonard Luciano said.

The Federal Highway Administration identified the 1.6-mile section of South Orange Avenue between the intersection of Brookside Drive/Cherry Lane in Millburn to the intersection with Harding Drive in South Orange as being deficient as many as 10 years ago. The road in that area floods regularly and, as a result, is usually closed to traffic during inclement weather. In addition, the sharp curves in the road and the lack of a shoulder result in limited sight lines, and make entering and exiting existing turnoff areas very difficult and dangerous. 

A variety of improvements will be made to South Orange Avenue to enhance safety and drainage, as well as promote access to the reservation and its system of trails. They include the following:

  • The roadway will be re-aligned to reduce the sharpness of the curves.
  • The roadway will be widened so that a shoulder can be created in the eastbound direction.
  • Traffic signal equipment at the intersections of Brookside Drive/Cherry Lane in Millburn and Glenview Road in South Orange will be modernized.
  • Retention swales along the side of the road will be constructed to address flooding and reduce water runoff from the road into the reservation.
  • Guide rails and lighting will be installed to enhance safety. The new lights will include traditional overhead cobra-head street lights and decorative gas-lamp style lamps.
  • A new pedestrian bridge over the roadway near the Girl Scout Camp and an existing pedestrian and equine bridge will be reconstructed. The two bridges will be designed with stone facing to complement the natural area of the reservation.
  • Turnoff and parking areas will be upgraded to improve sight lines and make it easier to exit and enter the roadway. This will enhance access to walking trails that start or pass by these parking areas.
  • More than 3,600 trees and additional landscaping will be planted to replace the 430 trees that were cut down. In addition, areas in the reservation that were affected by Hurricane Sandy will be replanted.

“My administration has focused our attention on preserving and expanding our open space inventory throughout Essex County. While the roadway construction will have an environmental impact, we are mitigating this by planting thousands of new trees, addressing water run off by improving road drainage and accelerating regrowth of areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy with new landscape and plantings,” the County Executive pointed out. 

French and Parrello Associates, Consulting Engineers, from Wall, NJ, received a $1.6 million contract to design the roadway improvements. New Prince Concrete Construction from Hackensack was awarded a publicly bid contract for 25,915,389.50 to perform the construction. The Essex County Public Works Department is monitoring the project to ensure delays are avoided. Funding for the project is being provided by a federal transportation grant.

Old School April 15, 2014 at 09:26 AM
I think you should fix the property tax problem the county has before you take on any new initiatives. It would make for a much better headline. How about this “Essex County Executive vows to reduce property taxes by cutting the outrageous pay and benefit packages of the public employee unions and the PBA”.
David Harrison April 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM
"The road in that area floods regularly ...is usually closed to traffic during inclement weather" Not true. In my 17 years of residency I can remember only a handful of times when the road was closed. What a surprise that members of Joe Di's administration think this is a good idea! I'll bet Joe's picture will be placed on the construction site real soon!
Shamrock1224 April 15, 2014 at 12:06 PM
Ok I thought the people in the Country Govt were a bunch of boneheads, and this just clinches it. I've lived in Essex Co almost all of my life (21 yrs in West Orange and over 40 yrs in Maplewood). There were always curves (we called the S-Turns) on So Orange Ave. If one is coming from Livingston Area, the can come down Mt Pleasant Av, or Northfield Rd, and then cut across to Ridgewood Road in So Orange. I wonder if anyone remembers when the County did the repaving on the S-Turns stretch with "stuff" that was supposed to help people from skidding. The "stuff" they put down didn't work, and made the road like an ice rink. All at the taxpayers expense. i agree with "Old School and David" above. Time for the Co Executive to revise his budget concerns. We get "zero" benefits from the County, but County taxes keep going up. How about giving back to the towns in Essex to fix the existing infrastructure (major pot holes on Valley St and Springfield Ave, just as an example).


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