Resource Center News

Demolition of Centerton Road Bridge

Demolition work on the over 115-year-old metal swing bridge began last week and is scheduled to continue into the new year, according county officials.

MOUNT LAUREL — The Centerton Road Bridge is finally coming down.

Demolition work on the over 115-year-old metal swing bridge began last week and is scheduled to continue into the new year, according county officials.

The span over the Rancocas Creek has been closed since April 2015 due to severe structural damage and has been slated for demolition for almost as long.

R.E. Pierson Construction Co. started work on removing the bridge’s steel trusses on Dec. 9 and are tentatively scheduled to complete that portion of the demolition by March. The remainder of the span, save for its abutments, is expected to be completed no later than next October, officials said.

Pierson was awarded a contract of up to $3.97 million to perform the demolition work. It’s bid was the lowest of four qualified bids received by the county for the demolition job. The other companies that submitted bids were South State Inc., Agate Construction Co. and the JPC Group.

A fifth company, Tricon Enterprises Inc., submitted a lower bid of $2.46 million but was ruled noncompliant, according to bid documents.

Pierson is one of the largest construction companies in the Northeast. According to its website, the company performed demolition of the South Street Bridge in Philadelphia and the old Virtua Voorhees hospital.

In addition to contracting with Pierson, the county has also awarded CME Associates a $440,000 contract to serve as construction inspection engineer on the project. The engineering and planning firm was selected from the county’s list of prequalified professionals.

The freeholder board is financing most of the demolition expense with a low-interest loan from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, also known as the “I-Bank,” which provides low-interest loans for local and county transportation, water and sewer projects.

County officials have said removing the bridge is a necessary expense because it is currently considered a safety hazard.

County officials have long described the shuttered bridge as a safety hazard that must be removed, but they have repeatedly said no decision has been made about a potential replacement span.

“Whether that will be a walking bridge or a vehicle bridge, we have not made any final decision in regards to the bridge. But it cannot be left as is,” Freeholder Director Tom Pullion said in February when the board approved borrowing $3.5 million to cover the cost of the demolition.

“The demolition isn’t because we want to do this, it’s because we need to,” added Freeholder Felicia Hopson.

Replacing the bridge has been a controversial issue and some residents have lobbied for a replacement span, arguing that its loss has impacted quality of life for residents who must deal with traffic on Interstate 295, which is now the main route to cross the Rancocas between Willingboro, Westampton and Mount Laurel without the bridge. But some other residents in the area have said losing the bridge has reduced traffic in their neighborhood and rebuilding it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

A $261,000 study completed last year by Maser Consulting, AECOM, and Richard Grubb and Associates estimated it would cost around $25 million to rebuild the bridge as a modern, fixed span for vehicle and pedestrian traffic or as much as $37 million to replace it as a new swing-span capable of moving to make way for marine traffic on the creek.

The study also examined rebuilding the bridge as a pedestrian and bicycle-only crossing, concluding that it would likely cost about $5.5 million.

Last year the freeholder board authorized moving forward with studying the possibility of a pedestrian bridge rather than trying to replace the span with a new modern bridge capable of handling motor-vehicle traffic. At the time, the five-member board was controlled by Republicans.

The Democrats are now in the majority and have said there have been some early discussions about revisiting the issue of a motor-vehicle bridge. No final decision has been made.

A key factor may become how high above the water a replacement span must be in order to allow marine vessels to safely travel beneath it.

The current swing bridge is about four feet above the mean high water of the Rancocas, but the feasibility study indicated either a fixed pedestrian or motor-vehicle bridge would need to be 12-feet above the water to allow most motorboats to safely travel beneath it.

The freeholders have reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard to inquire about whether the height of a replacement span could be reduced, which might reduce the expense. However, the service has not ruled on the minimum height for rebuilding the span, a county spokesman said.