Two Camden County road projects; Cross Keys Road widening and the Somerdale Road Bridge rebuild, are going through some additional design efforts which has modified construction timelines.
UPDATE: A segment of Cross Keys Road will be CLOSED for almost one month until December 21st! The Cross Keys Road segment is just north of the Camden County Technical High School and will have detour routes available on Erial-New Brooklyn Road and Turnersville roads in both directions.
The very short timeline summary is; it is anticipated the Cross Keys road construction efforts are to resume in about 2 weeks (after Thanksgiving). For the Somerdale bridge rebuild, it is now expected to see construction start in mid-2024.
For several weeks now readers have been reaching out to me asking about the statuses on these two projects, to see if I could find out why they were delayed.
Clearly the Cross Keys Rd. project has gained the most attention from commuters as the current contract phase (immediately north of the County Technical School) has had significant amounts of work already completed… when construction efforts abruptly stopped several weeks ago.
I think what really grabbed the attention of commuters is that all of the construction equipment was removed from the area, which is something we don’t commonly see within the boundaries of an active construction contract/segment.
I reached out to Camden County representatives for information on the project statuses and the reasoning behind the delays. Read on for more details.
Cross Keys Road : A Growing Major Corridor
The Cross Keys Road project to widen and rebuild 5 miles of roadway, is a multiple year effort which was split up into four different contracts.
This project was necessary as development of residential and commercial projects in the area over the most recent decades, has created considerably more traffic through the Camden County roadway. The Cross Keys Road improvements are expected to support a larger traffic capacity into the future, while also making it’s use safer for drivers.
The area around Cross Keys Road has seen development for decades, but up unto 10 years ago the Winslow side of Cross Keys Road had restrictions on most new developments, as the town was at it’s capacity to handle sewage processing.
That changed in 2014 when Winslow was connected to the Camden County MUA system. (Inquirer)
Soon after, development projects in Winslow Township were allowed to move forward. As an example, one of the most significant first big developments after completion of the new sewage connection was the Carmax facility, which I wrote about just a year later in 2015.
Cross Keys Road Widening – More Than Just Asphalt
For the Cross Keys Road widening project, currently work is taking place in Contract 3 which is the area immediately north of the Camden County technical school.
Within each project segment there is a multiple step process…. In high-level summary:
The widened roadway area is cleared of trees and other debris or structures.
Utilities such as “telephone poles” and all of the cables attached to them need to be relocated back further away from the roadway center (to accommodate the wider roadway). This requires extensive coordination with a variety of utilities, who would be responsible for the relocation of all cables and fiber.
Even underground utilities needed to be dug up and relocated! There are fire hydrants along portions of the roadway, as well as South Jersey Gas lines. Water management sewers were also installed.
Then initial soil re-grading and foundation work takes place in the area of the widened roadway.
Next, new curbing is installed for the widened roadway, which includes recreating driveway access to businesses and residences located along cross keys roadway.
Once those efforts are completed, contractors can finally get to what the public sees as the core aspect of the project…. Recreating the road surface with new asphalt across the entire width, including the new wider roadway area.
For the one problematic area of the Cross Keys roadway, as they were completing the asphalt work contractors determined that the ground underneath where they needed to place the new road surface segment and asphalt… just didn’t feel as solid as they expected. Significant moisture was found in that area.
This was shared with County officials and engineers who then started a process for additional research, to determine what (if any) work was needed.
Camden County and its contractors maintain detailed weekly status reports for their road projects. The September 1st status includes an image of a very wet surface, with a caption “county is reevaluating pavement design due to soft conditions”
Two weeks later the status included a line item in the listing of upcoming efforts:
P&A Construction’s sub-contractor APS (Asphalt Paving Systems) to conduct FDR (Full Depth Reclamation) to portions of the project where the subgrade has excessive moistureCross Keys Road Widening Status Document – September 15, 2023
So while the plan to conduct full depth reclamation was determined back in September, it seems that additional research and design work was needed prior to that effort actually starting.
Due to that additional time required to work out those details, it was agreed that the contractor could move their equipment to another project so that they could keep the construction crews gainfully employed.. while the full Cross Keys Road project details were worked out.
So I intentionally called out all of the steps that had to happen prior to this, to help explain to readers/commuters why it felt like it was so close to being completed… and things just ground to a halt!
I visited the project area last week (before I had the extra details from the county) and found the area which did not have any asphalt in place.
More specifically the problematic segment is between the County Technical School and Madison Ave. This area on both sides of the road is undeveloped, very wooded… and closer to Madison Avenue a small Creek runs underneath the roadway; Sharp’s Branch Creek.
So it does seem that the full 1/4 mile segment of the roadway is susceptible to extra moisture as is evidenced by the County status document image which was taken closer to the billboard.
Additionally, the Sharps Branch Creek is in the area and runs underneath the roadway. To manage the water passing underneath the road, a culvert tube has existed for decades. For the new widening project, the culvert was extended.
So considering the Creek runs underneath the roadway in this area, obviously bringing a higher moisture content into the soil, as well as years of organic material buildup from roadside trees and vegetation… it’s understandable that the ground in that area of the roadway could have higher moisture and a softer base, requiring additional foundation work.
I reached back out to County officials for more details on the problem as well as plans to address the issue. I appreciate that they provided the following details:
A substantial amount of organic material was found underneath the paved portion of the roadway that was not anticipated. We had to adjust the proposed grading of the roadway and changed the design of the road reconstruction to avoid disturbance of this material. This is mainly accomplished by utilizing and completing FDR (full depth reclamation) process which will create an 8” soil cement course which will cap over the undesirable soils. New hot mix bituminous asphalt pavement courses will be paved over that.
Looking for more details on what “full depth reclamation” is, I visited the American Cement Manufacturers website to see that FDR is a recommended process to create a stabilized base layer to support a new bituminous or concrete surface course (for the roadway).
It seems to be a functional and safe solution to provide a strong stabilized base layer… which also reuses existing (pulverized) pavement materials… saving money in materials, as well as reducing project cost in mining out soil and hauling it away.
With research done and the design in place, the project is in a position to be restarted.
The County met with the contractor yesterday, and it is expected that the construction equipment and workers will return to the Cross Keys Rd. project site on November 27th (or soon after).
Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild
The Somerdale Road project is a (originally) $4.1 million bridge rebuild effort in Gloucester Township, which was expected to start in early January 2023.
The bridge is located North of Chews Landing Road and crosses over the North Branch of the Timber Creek… in the area of the small Heritage Park.
The original plan for the roadway was to support continued commuter use of the bridge during demolition and reconstruction via an alternating traffic pattern. Simply one direction at a time would cross over the bridge, while the other direction would wait its turn.
42Freeway wrote about the project a month later in February 2023, when digital signage and construction materials appeared at the site… ahead of the start of construction.
My research at the time found that the current bridge was developed in 1936, which at almost 90 years old is a key reason for the rebuilding effort.
The timing for the start of the project was to be in June of 2023, soon after school let out… to better manage impacts of traffic and kids going to schools.
(By the way if you’re a little bit of a history buff in that article I also noticed remnants of a former bridge which went back to 1910, and then ventured over to the Gabriel Daveis tavern side. Check out that article here. Also an article on Gabriel Daveis Tavern)
So finally to the point of why it appeared contractors were so close to starting this project, and then it was decided to redesign the project… to the point that the Somerdale Road bridge project will be bid out again.
Well simply after thinking it through and getting additional input from residents and local officials, the County agreed that the important Somerdale Road needed to maintain a lane of traffic in each direction throughout the course of construction.
Which, in the original plan announced by the County back in January, previously there was going to be an alternating direction single lane of traffic.
At this time I don’t know what the new plan entails, but just from my own visits to the site it does seem that it’s going to be a little bit more challenging because the the Creek widens on either side of the bridge. So I think it could make it tougher to manage the width needed to support maintaining two lanes of traffic while developing the new bridge!
From the County:
The project is being redesigned so that two lanes of traffic can be maintained on the bridge throughout the course of construction. The project will be rebid with construction to begin by mid 2024 and will take approximately 18-24 months to be completed.Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild Status – Camden County
I’ll close with.. what really brought my attention to the Somerdale Road Bridge project back in January is that I “bumped into” several local Emergency Services personel in a local casual restaurant. They were the ones who pointed out to me “hey did you know about the Somerdale Road Bridge project”? In that conversation they shared that local Emergency Service teams had concerns over the original single lane plans. So while it was a later change of decisions, it seems the County listened to the concerns and agreed to work on a new rebuild plan.