UNION COUNTY—For the past year, Henry Gilbert had a front row seat watching the replacement of the Division Avenue bridge on the Summit-New Providence border.
The 109-year-old grey deteriorating concrete bridge, no longer capable of handling loads over eight tons, is now gone. In its place over the Salt Brook, is a span capable of handling 80,000-pound trailers and a stone façade sure to be noticed by passing motorists.
“It looks beautiful,” said Gilbert, watching as masons completed the stone façade that would then be capped with 225-pound tablets of bluestone.
Setting each individual stone was a father-son team, Jose C. Teixeira, and his son, Jose L. Teixeira of Newark.
It took them nearly two months, said the elder Teixeira, speaking in his native Portuguese, with his son acting as translator. Teixeira, 48, has been a mason for nearly 30 years, he said, noting that he will miss the bridge project.
“It would be rare to find something again like this,” he said. “But with work, you finish and you start again.”
The new bridge is the second of two bridges Union County finished replacing this year. The other was the East Inman Avenue bridge in Rahway, said county Engineer Thomas Mineo.
“The Division Avenue bridge is an unusual bridge,” Mineo said. “This is really a giant precast concrete box culvert.”
The 20-foot span was brought in by tractor trailers in sections, with cables then used to join them together.
The project was never supposed to take as long as it did, Mineo said. A water main that crossed the brook had to be replaced by the utility company as part of the project.
However, the 20-inch line was essential to the area and so the line had to remain operational as the replacement line was installed. Further complications ended up pushing back the completion of the bridge, which finally opened on Sept. 4.
Replacing the bridge cost $697,490, with the funding coming from the state.
While the old bridge was 26-feet wide, with a sidewalk on one side, an additional six-feet was added to provide sidewalks on both sides of the new span, Mineo said.
With nearly all of the construction over, Gilbert said he is happy life is returning to normal. His driveway is his again, his front lawn, which provided access to the stream bed, now looks like a lawn. And more importantly, Gilbert said, he doesn’t have to listen to the construction trucks beeping whenever they backed up.
But as much as the trucks bothered him, Gilbert said he really liked the guys on the project.
“The construction crew has been very considerate,” he said. “They’ve even brought my newspaper in because they know I have trouble walking.”
The county has embarked on three new bridge projects, Springfield Avenue in Cranford, Monroe Street in Rahway and South First Street. And while Teixeira is not sure whether he will see another masonry job the size of the Division Avenue Bridge anytime soon, he said he hopes his son starts thinking of another path.
“He should go to school, not stay here,” he said.
But his son is not so sure.
“I don’t want to go to school right now,” he said. “I’m not a bad student. I had a 3.75 at Science Park High (in Newark). But I have to find something I like. And I don’t like being inside.”
Henry Gilbert had a front row seat to watch the replacement of the Division Avenue Bridge. Gilbert is happy all the construction is finally over and that things are returning to normal. The nearly $700,000 bridge was paid for by the state, which found the 109-year-old span structurally deficient and restricted truck traffic because of safety concerns.
Jose C. Teixeira, left, works with his son, Jose L. Teixeira, applying the stonework to the Division Avenue bridge on the Summit-New Providence border. It took the father and son team nearly two months to complete the bridge. Once the walls were finished, bluestone tablets were placed along the top of the bridge walls.
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