Mayor negotiates compromise with county on bridge closing

| 20 Mar 2019 | 10:50

    By Charles Kim
    WEST MILFORD – Mayor Michele Dale was able to reach a compromise with Passaic County officials so that the Marshall Hill Road bridge will not be entirely closed during the next seven weeks.
    “It’s not going to be fully closed,” Dale announced during Wednesday night’s Township Council meeting.
    The county planned to close the bridge completely for the next 6-7 weeks starting on Monday in order to complete work replacing the structure.
    It had already been closed for several months last year, causing traffic headaches for residents who had to detour around the construction project.
    Drivers got a bit of a relief when the bridge opened again around Christmas, but that turned out to be short-lived as utility work began again last month with alternating traffic across the span.
    Last year’s closing caused the annual Autumn Lights Festival to relocate up Ridge Road and angered several businesses that saw a downturn in sales due to drivers not wanting to travel the extra minutes around the detour route.
    The agreement Dale made with the county will close the bridge only during the daytime working hours between 7 a.m. and about 3:30 or 4 p.m. weekdays, opening the road up at night and during the weekends.
    Dale said she had heard that several businesses were not happy with having the road fully closed for an additional six or seven weeks and that she contacted the county to see if an accommodation could be made.
    One of those businesses, Pequannock Pet Feed & Supply on the other side of the bridge on Marshall Hill Road, heading toward Hewitt, saw a decrease in business when the bridge was closed last year.
    “It definitely had an impact on us,” Owner Jim Worth said Tuesday. “It dropped us down quite a bit.”
    Worth has owned the business for 18 years and said that news of a second closing was not good.
    “I wasn’t happy about it of course,” Worth said. “There’s no good side of that for me. It’s tough enough to do business in this town and then they throw something like this at you.”
    He said other businesses, especially those on his side of the bridge, away from the ShopRite, were also upset about the planned closing.
    Many people are confused about what is taking so long for the county to replace such a small bridge.
    “People are scratching their heads,” Worth said. “They built the Empire State Building in one year all those years ago without the machinery they have today.”
    While P&A Computers owner Paul Aiazzone, on the other side of the bridge, said his business did not see a big change during the closing last year, he can feel for other businesses impacted by the work.
    Aiazzone said the lake on the one side of the bridge is no longer there and only a trickle of water flows under the road now.
    “They should have just put in a pipe and buried it,” he said.
    Dale said that the bridge needed to be replaced due to state wetlands and water regulations by the Department of Environmental Protection, so a simple pipe would not have worked.
    She said hopefully, the compromise reached with the county, who is responsible for the project because it owns the road, will be less of a disruption for residents and they can still be able to drive across it daily for errands after getting out of work.