The bridge will allow traffic to access the southern portion of the town, in particular, areas under development near the Secaucus rail transfer station.
"Without the bridge, development isn't possible in the south end of Secaucus," said Mayor Dennis Elwell last week.
The project has a potential cost of $40 million, largely coming from government funds and local railroad companies. It would end many of the traffic nightmares that currently plague the area due to freight trains crossing New County Road.
For years, access to what many old timers call "the back row," meaning the south end of Secaucus, has been restricted. There are only two narrow roads to access the massive properties where historic Hudson County institutions once stood: a jail, several hospitals, and other facilities.
Over the last 70 years, the region became a quarry for a while, as well as the site of a temporary jail, host to trucking terminals, and eventually the location of a county park (Laurel Hill Park, which exists there now).
But during the 1990s, local officials grew concerned when NJ Transit officials began forging plans to build one of New Jersey's principle train stations nearby, the Secaucus Transfer Station. This was in addition to already existing freight train lines in the area.
Part of the plans for the Secaucus Transfer Station involved construction of a turnpike exit off which buses and other traffic would come, so regional planners envisioned little traffic from local roads. However, local officials knew that the train station and other development would still put a strain on the narrow local roads.
One area of particular concern to town officials was the train line in and out of Croxton Rail Yards. Trains frequently closed the road, blocking access to southern Secaucus along that road often for an hour or more at time.
"With the way that crossing currently blocks traffic, the south end could never develop," Elwell said.
Fourth phase of improvements
The new bridge is the last phase of a four-part infrastructure improvement project that opens the door to the residential and retail development already underway for the area of town around the train station.
The previous phases included a bridge over Bergen/Main train line that accesses the station from the west. This was completed two years ago. The second phase included the construction of a connection to the New Jersey Turnpike.
The third was the extension of Seaview Drive that connects New County Road to the Meadowlands Parkway, providing access to the train station area from the western portions of Secaucus.
With another access road to the train station open, the access from County Road can be closed for nine months for the construction of a new bridge that would allow traffic over a rail line used to access Croxton Freight Yards that borders the eastern side of Secaucus.
"Construction of the bridge is due to start in July," Elwell said. "The whole intersection will be closed down for nine months."
This intersection not only allows traffic to go to the south end of Secaucus, but also provides access to Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City - which means traffic will likely Jersey City-bound traffic will be diverted north to Secaucus Road. Elwell, however, said once the bridge is complete, traffic jams should cease and vehicles will be able to better access both south Secaucus as well as Jersey City.
Holding out for bridge financing
Getting this bridge, of course, has not been an easy task. The CSX and Norfolk Southern train companies largely do not respond to local complaints since they are governed under federal regulations. CSX is also operated by Dubai Ports World, the same United Arab Emirates firm that has made recent headlines with the current port takeover deal, making management even less accessible to local officials.
However, three years ago, Elwell got the rail company's attention when he - then the head of the Hackensack Meadowlands Mayors Committee - blocked approval of expansion plans for Croxton Yards, forcing both rail companies, the federal and state departments of Transportation, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to come up with the $40 million to build the bridge.
The estimated date of completion for the bridge is March or April 2007.
The first 400 of 2,000 new residential units in that area are expected to be occupied in November of 2006, Elwell said.