Peddie Lake bridge has finally been installed

The long-awaited Peddie Lake pedestrian bridge has been delivered and installed over the Peddie Lake dam, ending a decade-long effort to replace that bridge after it was condemned for safety reasons by state inspectors.

The new bridge, however, is not ready for pedestrians. Over the next four to six weeks, contractors will install the steps, sidewalks and ramps needed to make the bridge usable, Hightstown Borough officials said.

A bridge dedication ceremony has been set for Oct. 28 at 6 p.m.

The bridge was placed over the Peddie Lake dam by a crane, guided on the ground by workmen on both sides of the lake, last month. The original bridge was a central part of the Hightstown Borough landscape.

A pedestrian walking over the metal bridge will see a series of one-sided, hand-hammered steel medallions that outline the history of the adjacent Memorial Park. The medallions were designed by Ryan Rosenberg and forged by artist and blacksmith Charlie Spademan.

Soon after the bridge was condemned by state inspectors in the early 2000’s, a young Hightstown girl, Taylor Bell, approached Hightstown Borough Council and told the governing body that she wanted the bridge to be rebuilt – and that she wanted to help.

The Hightstown Walking Bridge Committee was organized to find out what it would take to build a bridge. The committee settled on a metal arch bridge, with some historical design elements.

The town was set to move forward with the bridge project, but suffered setbacks when two storms – Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and Super Storm Sandy in October 2012 – caused extensive flooding and damage in Hightstown Borough.

While state inspectors subsequently found that the Peddie Lake dam was structurally sound, they discovered that the abutments holding up the original bridge were hollow and did not have the proper footings. This meant the new bridge could not be built on the same spot as the old one.

The town went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan to build the bridge over top of the dam. The final design called for an 80-foot-long bridge, which is twice as long as originally proposed.

Hightstown Borough soon discovered it did not have enough money to pay for a new bridge – despite fundraising efforts by the residents that raised about $50,000. The bridge would cost much more.

Hightstown Borough officials learned of a state grant opportunity. The town applied for – and received – a state grant of $408,575 from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

The Hightstown Borough Council awarded a contract to Assuncao Brothers Inc. of Edison for $408,575 to build the bridge.

The bridge that was demolished in the early 2000’s was built in 1921 in conjunction with Memorial Park, which honors the town’s war heroes.

The bridge that was demolished was not the first one over the Peddie Lake dam. An enclosed wooden walkway across the wooden dam that formed Peddie Lake was the forerunner to the 1921 bridge.