Another large roadway project has started in Camden County, with the $57.2 million project to replace the 11 lane “Klemm Avenue Bridge” on I-76. This bridge crosses over Gloucester City’s Klemm Ave (and the Conrail tracks, as well as the South Branch Newton Creek).
Interstate 76 is a 435 mile Federal Highway which starts in Bellmawr NJ (on the East end) and travels towards and over the Walt Whitman bridge through Philadelphia.
The roadway through Gloucester City is highly traveled as it is a main artery connecting several key South Jersey highways to Philadelphia and other New Jersey destinations.
We first wrote about this project last year when it was identified as needing to be expedited.
Over 1.25 Billion Dollars in Projects, In 4 Miles
Specific to this bridge reconstruction project, Klemm Ave through the construction area near Rt 130 has been closed since mid-February and will continue to be closed until further notice.
Recent NJDOT communications describe the I-76 over Klemm Ave project as such:
In addition, the project will replace the noise walls on the bridge and on the approach roadway, as well overhead sign structures. Improvements will be made to ramps, drainage, lighting, and ITS components within the project limits. I-76 carries an average of 200,000 vehicles each day.NJDOT description of the I-76 over Klemm Ave bridge replacement project
The project is expected to be completed in the fall 2023.
This bridge has been identified as in need of repair of over 10 years and is called out by various government agencies and media outlets for a long time.
This bridge replacement is in the same straight-line roadway as the Direct Connection project and the Missing Moves projects which are about 1.5 miles away (center to center).
While this may add additional inconvenience to travelers, it’s clear this bridge replacement work had to be greenlighted.
I-76 at Klemm Ave: Structurally Deficient
Ten years ago BusinessInsider.com wrote a piece on the Federal Highway Administration “Structurally Deficient” bridges list. They chose the I-76 Klemm Ave bridge as one to highlight in their report.
It was stated 10 years ago that the bridge had a sufficiency rating of only 52 percent!
Back in 2016 area news site CNBNews wrote an article about concrete falling from the underneath of the bridge to Klemm Avenue below it!
Corrective Actions – Temporary and Now Permanent
As mentioned, the full repair and rebuild of core segments of I-76 in New Jersey has been on the Transpiration Officials radar for more that 10 years.
In 2021 the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission produced a Transportation Improvement Program Actions publication which highlights changes to funding and plans for Philadelphia Metro regional road projects.
In the 88 page document, the first changes to be presented are for the I-76 Klemm Ave bridge.
The document does a very good job of explaining how the Klemm Ave bridge was being reprioritized to the top.
It also explains the temporary efforts done over the recent years to keep the bridge safe while they positioned everything for the full repair and rebuild.
First off, the bridge is just one aspect of a large I-76 in New Jersey upgrade with a total expenditure of $175 million… basically the same amount as the all new construction Missing Moves project in Bellmawr.
What was decided with the TIP change, is the I-76 project would be split into 3 phases/contracts, with the Klemm Ave portion coming first.
While the DVRPC document list this first contract as $89.9 million, recent NJDOT communications set the price tag at $57.2 million.
In the document they describe the temporary repairs made in 2019 and 2020, which further highlight the need to fast-track this project
- 2019: Emergency repairs made (decking) CBS Philadelphia
- 2020: Shielded structure’s underside to prevent additional structural deterioration from falling onto the local roadway below.
At the start of this article we give the NJDOT short description of the project. Below is how DVRPC document references it:
- Construct improvements that are directly related to the “Klemm Avenue Bridge” superstructure replacement and overhead sign structure replacement
- Relocate utilities underneath the bridge
- Incidental work activities: infiltration basin construction, drainage, lighting, ITS Conduit, pavement rehabilitation, replacement of impacted noise walls and ramp reconstruction for the Route 76 Southbound (SB) to Route 130 SB exit ramp.
So yes, some of the sound barrier walls are also being replaced, and if you’ve traveled I-76 recently you’ve seen portions of the walls removed on the southbound side.
An article at NJ.com in January provides additional project details:
- Upgrading 31 traffic signals
- installing or replacing about 300 curb ramps.
- Median barrier will be replaced with a temporary movable barrier similar to one used on the Walt Whitman Bridge and the Ben Franklin Bridge
As mentioned, NJDOT states the portion of the project is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2023.
Still to come are Contracts 2 and 3 which cover the bridge over Nicholson Road, rebuilding and widening of the bridge over Main Branch Newton Creek, roadway and drainage system upgrades.
Note: All aerial drone images were taken by an FAA Part 107 Certified Pilot