The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders has come to an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Transportation to fund the completion of construction of the Route 518 bridge project in Franklin Township and Rocky Hill.
Once a formal memorandum of understanding is approved, the project will recommence, Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh said.
“You cannot put a price tag on the safety and security of Somerset County residents,” she said. “Nor should they have to bear the fallout from the current impasse in Trenton surrounding the Transportation Trust Fund debate.”
Walsh called the agreement a win-win for Somerset County residents, and she thanked State Senator Kip Bateman and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli for helping to broker the deal.
“From a health, safety and convenience standpoint, this is a win for Somerset County residents,” Walsh said.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders will fund the project as a capital expenditure. Officials claim county property taxpayers will not be paying more because of the cost. It was unclear Tuesday night whether capital funding will be reallocated from other projects to make this possible without increasing funding from taxpayers. Capital projects are usually paid for by borrowing money. Taxpayers still must pay off the bonds over a period of several years.
Montgomery Mayor Patricia Graham applauded the deal.
“The closure of the Route 518 bridge has placed an undue burden on our residents,” Graham said. “I am happy to hear this issue is being resolved, allowing this project to move forward expeditiously.”
Anthony Attanasio, executive director of the Utilities and Transportation Contracts Association construction workers union, said workers are eager to finish the project.
“It is no secret that due to the funding issues, our members have been put out of work, and important projects like the Route 518 bridge have been put on the back burner,” he said. “We are happy to get moving and get the project done, and done right.”
Gov. Chris Christie has showed indifference to complaints by residents about the hardships they have faced because of the bridge closure. For many area residents, the closure has doubled their commuting time. Area businesses have also suffered.Three area mayors held a protest at the bridge, but Christie brushed it off by pointing out that they were Democrats. Yet Bateman and Ciattarelli, both Republicans, have also called on the governor to make the 518 bridge repair an essential project.