Two dams failures, 6 bridge closures hamper commutes

FREEHOLD, NJ – Flooding and power outages that were the result of Hurricane Irene continued to plague residents today, particularly with travel along local roads.

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Hubbard Avenue - A NJ-American Water Co. worker inspects water pipe exposed when an earthen dam failed and was washed out by Shadow Lake in Middletown.

The severe flooding from 9 to 12 inches of rainfall over this past weekend caused two earthen dams to fail, and forced county officials to close five bridges that will be in need of major repair. Because those bridges and dams impacted the roads, detours will be necessary until those repairs can be made.  

“Even though these closures will cause an inconvenience, residents should be pleased to learn that the county’s Department of Public Works and Engineering was well-prepared for the storm and have since committed the necessary resources to minimize the impact on us all.”

For example, all of the county’s engineers have been reassigned to inspect the county’s 980 bridges; 34 of the most crucial structures were to be inspected by the end of today. In addition, personnel in several other divisions have been reassigned to assist with those inspections. They will be working 12-hour shifts for the remainder of this week to get the work done.

The earthen dams that failed and subsequent road closures are:

  • Hubbard Avenue at Shadow Lake in Middletown;
  • Ravine Drive at Lake Lefferts in Matawan.

The six bridges and roads that will be closed indefinitely include:

  • Jackson Mills Road over the Manasquan River in Freehold Township;
  • Allentown-Crosswicks Road over Doctor’s Creek in Upper Freehold Township;
  • Southard Avenue over the Manasquan River in Howell;
  • Swimming River Road over the Swimming River in Tinton Falls, and
  • Lake Drive over Takanassee Lake in Ocean Township.
  • Holland Road over Mahoras Creek in Middletown Township

“Fortunately, the designs for many of these bridges have already been completed in anticipation of replacing them, so we are that much closer to getting the work done,” said John W. Tobia, director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Engineering. “For the others, our in-house engineers will be working into the night to develop designs to advance these projects.”

“Our in-house engineers already met with Dam Safety officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and contractors in the field to review the scope of the work,” County Engineer Joseph Ettore said. “Work on Ravine Drive will begin in the morning.”

Another concern residents may have is the number of traffic signals that are out due to continued power outages. As of this afternoon, Jersey Central Power & Light Co. has restored service to approximately 248,000 customers with about 346,000 customers still without power in northern and central New Jersey. In total, more than half of JCP&L’s customers have been affected.

  • JCP& L crews are making progress, but debris from downed trees and limbs and areas of heavy flooding are making restoration efforts challenging. Many of the outages associated with this storm are isolated and will require a significant number of repairs to bring all residents back in service.
  • JCP&L is focusing its initial repairs on efforts that can bring up the most customers. For example, if one repair can bring back 1,000 customers, that’s near the top of the list. There are thousands of smaller, localized repair requests; this work is labor-intensive and it will take at least several more days.
  • There are 1,200 FirstEnergy and JCP&L workers in New Jersey working on restoration efforts. In total, more than 4,000 FirstEnergy employees are involved in the effort.

“A number of Monmouth County intersections are on battery backup and they are still working, but there are many other intersections, particularly state intersections, that may have inoperable traffic signals,” Curley said. “Motorists should treat those intersections as a four-way stop.”