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South Amboy officials wait for Conrail to address ‘hole in the wall’

By Jacqueline Durett

SOUTH AMBOY—Officials said they have been frustrated by the deteriorating condition of a railroad bridge and roadway tunnel that make up what is commonly called the “Hole in the Wall.”

The structure, owned by the Philadelphia-based freight line Conrail, is on N. Stevens Avenue in South Amboy. The two-lane road through the tunnel has a concrete divider, making each lane marginally wider than the width of an average car. Safety concerns are not just about the crumbling structure, but also about lighting, graffiti and the potential for loitering inside it.

However, some relief may be coming.

At the April 5 City Council meeting, Councilman Brian McLaughlin addressed the safety of the structure.

“Let’s get something done before someone gets killed,” McLaughlin said. “You can see the rebar because the concrete is all gone.”

Council President Mickey Gross agreed.

“When do we say enough is enough?”

City Engineer Mark Rasimowicz responded that city and county officials met last month with Conrail representatives, who said that Conrail, too, was looking for a more permanent solution for the structure, and was aware that it could no longer do patch jobs on it.

“It’s a mess,” Mayor Fred Henry said after the meeting, adding that in the winter  there are large icicles hanging down as an additional hazard. “You’re just waiting for something to drop on a car.”

Exactly what a permanent fix looks like is not yet known, although Rasimowicz said Conrail officials told them that they questioned whether such a significant structure is still even necessary. Only one of the handful of train lines on the bridge is in use, he said.

Rasimowicz said it was unclear who would be responsible for the roadway itself through the tunnel, whether it would be Conrail or the county.

After the meeting, Rasimowicz explained that during that meeting with Conrail officials, the county engineer and city representatives “insisted that Conrail provide a more permanent fix for the Hole in the Wall. Conrail reps were to review with their structural engineers.”

There is movement now on the issue because Henry told a resident in September that because of the significant state of disrepair, he had contacted Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ron Rios about the issue. Rios and Henry did a walk-through, and the freeholders subsequently sent a letter to Conrail. Conrail did not respond, he said, and an additional letter was sent. Henry said Rios told him the county would pursue legal action if no action is taken.

When asked after the April meeting about whether there have been any significant accidents in the tunnel, Henry said he was unaware of any major ones, although he is confident minor ones have happened.

“I’m sure people have probably hit the sides,” he said.

A representative from Conrail could not be reached for comment.

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