Two Bridges Scheduled for Repair at Same Time This Summer

The bridge over the Stony Brook on Route 206 in Princeton is scheduled to be replaced at the same time as a bridge on Carter Road, officials said Thursday night.

Princeton Engineer Bob Kiser said town representatives will meet with officials Friday to discuss the Route 206 bridge replacement and Mercer County’s Carter Road project.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation plans to fix the bridge over the Stony Brook on Route 206, the oldest bridge in the state, and another bridge abutting it at the same time.

Constructed in 1792, the Bridge over the Stony Brook is in need of major repairs. The bridge was closed for more than a week after a parapet on the southbound side collapsed on Feb.22.  Cracks and voids in the stone arches that support the bridge were found during an inspection while emergency repairs were made. Divers also determined that too much sediment had been removed at the base of the footings of the bridge.

The state plans to reconstruct and raise the parapet wall on both sides to a uniform height of three-and-a-half feet,  pour concrete to strengthen and reinforce the arches that support the bridge and reconstruct the stone area below the parapet as necessary. Town engineer Robert V. Kiser, who attended the commission meeting, said afterward that a project of that scope would take three to fourth months to complete, on extended work hours of two eight-hour shifts “at a minimum.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Mr. Hutchinson touched on the history of the bridge, the oldest in New Jersey carrying highway traffic. The state must follow federal Secretary of the Interior guidelines for repairing a historic structure.
“We realize this is a significant piece of history, we want to save this for Princeton, for New Jersey, for the nation,” he said. “We want the structure to last.”
But one commission member voiced concerns and pointed to a lack of experience Mr. Hutchinson’s firm had in dealing with bridges of this kind.
“I’m really frightened by this project. I think that the conception of the project is just completely wrong,” said Cecelia Tazelaar in suggesting the DOT turn to an engineering firm with a “track record” of rehabbing historic masonry arch bridges.
Piggybacking on her comments, fellow commissioner Robert von Zumbusch said one of the defining characteristics of the bridge is the height and shape of the parapet wall. He challenged the DOT on whether there are traffic accident records to show the height of the wall is a “problem.”
“I do think that some sort of proof is necessary, because I am not the least bit convinced that really is a safety problem,” he said.
For her part, Ms. Hecht defended the Arora firm by saying the DOT has “100 percent faith in the designers that we have on board.”
“We will not be putting something back that is not to standard,” she said. “But safety is not an option for the DOT.”
DOT said it did not have a price tag for how much fixing one bridge and replacing the other one, known as the flood plane bridge, would cost.
In the meantime, there will be a truck detour “until the permanent fix is in place,” Ms. Hecht said.