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Highway Quality Compendium

A Commitment to Quality

by Dennis Merida

For the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), replacing a deteriorated drawbridge built in 1922 resulted not only in a gleaming new structure, but in a project distinguished by innovative design features and a commitment to quality. This commitment was honored with the National Partnership for Highway Quality's (NPHQ) 2003 National Achievement Award. NPHQ brings together state, federal and highway industry leaders to encourage the use of quality practices that will improve safety and service for highway users. Members include the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, the American Public Works Association, the Foundation for Pavement Preservation, the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies and a number of roadway construction trade associations.

NJDOT, J.H. Reid General Contractor and Parsons Brinckerhoff-FG Inc. faced the challenge of replacing the 250-ft drawbridge with a five-span, 500-ft bridge. The new U.S. Rte. 9 Bridge over Nacote Creek in Atlantic County, N.J., has a 25-ft vertical clearance and two new approach roadways. The new approaches were raised and realigned to correct and upgrade the bridge's vertical geometry, improve sight distance and eliminate an existing dip in the roadway.

From the beginning, interaction with the community was vital. During the early stages of project development, numerous community meetings were held. NJDOT also took many steps to alleviate community concerns about the initiative. For example, because traffic congestion was a major concern, a detour plan was designed that would have the least disruption to the community. The new bridge also was designed with visual enhancements that would fit in with the historic aesthetics of the area.

Throughout the construction process, maintaining quality and safety was the subject of weekly "Tool Box" meetings held by project staff, where work activities planned for that week and work-zone safety measures were discussed.

NJDOT worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to protect the environment surrounding the project area, including marshes, wetlands and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, and to lessen or eliminate detrimental effects from the construction. Wetland mitigation activities, for example, included creating high and low marsh tidal wetlands and establishing a turtle-nesting habitat for the diamondback terrapin turtles that inhabit the area.

To achieve a high-quality project, NJDOT also implemented a number of innovative design features that were a first for the agency. These features included using the Load and Resistance Factor design method and high-performance concrete for the bridge beams and the prestressed cylinder piles that support the pier caps. Nontoxic composite materials were employed for the bridge's fender system, which protects the bridge from collisions. Unlike the traditional chemically treated timber fender system, the new system will not leak toxins into the water. It also has a longer life expectancy. Other innovations used by the project were mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls and vibro concrete columns for the approach embankments. The MSE walls were more economical and could be erected more quickly than cast-in-place walls. The use of MSE walls also reduced the amount of encroachment into wetlands in the areas around the abutments.

Throughout the construction process, maintaining quality and safety was the subject of weekly "Tool Box" meetings held by project staff, where work activities planned for that week and work-zone safety measures were discussed.

The bridge opened to traffic on Dec. 18, 2002, nearly two weeks early, and the final cost exceeded the contract amount by only 0.2%. Another hallmark of quality is that only two change orders were executed during construction. In addition, no accidents were reported during the entire time the project detour route was in effect. NJDOT's proactive approach to working with the local community also has paid off, as the new bridge has received a positive reception from residents and business owners.

The new bridge offers users a safer, smoother and better ride, while the innovative technologies employed will mean a longer performance life for the structure.

Merida is the division administrator in FHWA's New Jersey Division Office.

Reprinted from Roads & Bridges, January 2004.


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Updated: 11/26/2013
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000