MONTGOMERY: Mayor says ‘lives in danger’ due to Route 518 bridge closing

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Work on the Route 518 bridge over the Delaware & Raritan Canal Bridge near Rocky Hill has been stalled since Gov. Christie issued a stop-work order in July.

Transportation Trust Fund impasse halts work

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY — Citing the extra time that it takes for an ambulance to reach a hospital emergency room because of work stoppage on the Route 518 bridge, the Township Committee is calling on the state Commissioner of Transportation to deem the project to be “essential” and to complete it.
Work on the bridge project was halted as a result of the impasse over funding for the state Transportation Trust Fund, which is paying for the project. The trust fund has run out of money and lawmakers in Trenton are battling over how to fund it.
The bridge, which is east of Rocky Hill Borough, crosses the Millstone River. Beginning July 7, the bridge was supposed to be closed for three to four weeks as part of the project. But on July 8, Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order to stop work on all non-essential state-funded projects because of funding issues.
A subsequent letter from the state Department of Transportation, dated July 18, extended the shutdown until further notice. Township Committee and Rocky Hill Borough Council have called for the stop-work order to be lifted, adopting resolutions to make their point.
“There are safety concerns for Montgomery Township residents,” Mayor Patricia Graham said. “Stopping work on the bridge imposes a tremendous burden on the township. There is increased traffic (because of bridge detours).”
For many Montgomery residents, the Route 518 bridge is the closest crossing over the river to get to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, Mayor Graham said.
Although a back-up plan was put into place for a three-week bridge closure, the indefinite closure “puts the lives of Rocky Hill and Montgomery residents in danger” because of the extra time that it takes for an ambulance to reach the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro and the hospitals in New Brunswick, according to a resolution adopted by Township Committee last week.
The resolution noted that the Rocky Hill Fire Department and the Rocky Hill First Aid and Rescue Squad serve the Kingston and Griggstown areas of neighboring Franklin Township, but “without the bridge, they cannot respond.” The two agencies provides mutual aid, but in many cases they are the first ones to answer a call.
Arrangements have been made with the Kingston and Kendall Park volunteer fire companies to respond to southern Franklin Township, but it takes longer to get to the scene. “A prolonged bridge closure could put Franklin residents’ lives in danger,” the resolution said.
The resolution also states that the Route 518 bridge is “the only other major crossing of the river other than Amwell Road that is capable of (handling) truck traffic. Route 518 is the only major east-west connector from Route 206 to Route 27, and therefore to Route 1.”
“Large trucks are detoured on Montgomery Township roads is livable for three to four weeks, but it is dangerous if it is an indefinite detour,” the resolution said. “Township Committee hereby requests (state officials) deem the Route 518 bridge project essential and allow for its completion as quickly as possible.” 