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Direct Connection Bellmawr Video Update July 2024, Plus Update On “When?”

Direct Connection Bellmawr Video Update July 2024, Plus Update On “When?”
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The billion dollar Direct Connection project in Bellmawr NJ is in its 11th year of construction, and I am presenting here a July 2024 update on the project’s recent construction progress (mostly for this year).

This web article shares recent images of the core construction segments, but to really get an understanding of how well the construction progress has been moving forward lately, the provided video offers clips for each segment going back in time… even to last year when they removed the collapsed wall segment!

NJDOT Direct Connection 295/76/42 Project Update

Additionally, earlier this year the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission needed to approve changes to the last phase contract for the project (Contract 4), and as part of those updates they were provided an update on the anticipated full project completion date.

Direct Connection 295/76/42 Overview

If you’re unaware of the Direct Connection project, the likely billion dollar construction effort started in 2013 in an area centered in Bellmawr NJ, with a goal to provide more direct roadway passages for commuter through the complex interchange.

A key goal is to improve traffic flow on Route 295 by raising it up over top of the connected roadways.

when completed, NJDOT Direct Connection “straightens-out” Route 295 and more!

While many aspects of the large project have been completed successfully years ago (such as the rebuild of the Creek Road and Bell Road overpasses), there have been some unanticipated delays in the core center of the project.

The largest and most notable delay was the collapse of “Wall 22”, where the foundation of the unopened roadway segment slid out from underneath causing the road and supporting wall to collapse down.

A new design was approved which accounts for the challenges of the location, and last year the effort to rebuild the roadway (as well as remove the damaged prior effort) were started.

For more understanding check out my September 2022 article “Direct Connection Explainer Video and Top 3 Reasons

Spring 2023 image shows workers starting to dismantle the collapsed Wall 22 of Direct Connection

Browning Road Bridge

Browning Road is a well traveled local road in Bellmawr which traverses over top of the widest section of the recessed Routes 42/76.   To accommodate additional efforts with this project, the Browning Road bridge is being rebuilt in place, with a temporary bridge already in place off to the side.

Current efforts have been focused on the eastern bridge abutment.

Browning Road Bridge rebuild, eastern abutment appears mostly complete

In images taken last week this project segment now appears to be mostly completed, with the new interior support columns poured, the space backfilled, and of course the front concrete barrier wall in place.

Just a few months ago in February this was an empty whole in the sidewall of the recessed roadway.

Likely after this abutment is fully completed the lower road surface shoulder will be rebuilt, and we will see lane shifts over (temporarily) so that the center column supports for the upcoming new bridge can be completed.

Timing on that is unknown.

More center column work to come for the Browning Road Bridge rebuild.

Overpass Columns (North)

Tall columns to support the Route 295 overpass have been in place just north of the Browning Road bridge for several years now.  Recently, workers moved on to building out the top header portion, which is where the overhead roadway decking will be attached to.

In a matter of a few short months this year, construction crews were able to build out the large concrete top headers.

Direct Connection Route 295 Overpass support columns appear mostly completed

Many likely aren’t aware, but most of the elevated roadway actually will be on the other/South side of the Browning Road bridge and will also require tall supports to support the roadway. Two ramps have been constructed but the core columns in this section have not been developed.

Wall 22 Rebuild

A primary focus for construction efforts right now is the rebuilding of the Wall 22 segment, which had previously collapsed for several reasons… encapsulated in insufficient foundation design for the area.

Spring 2023 image of the Direct Connection Wall 22 efforts (last year) to clear out the collapsed section ahead of rebuild efforts.

With a new design approved, last year construction crews completed the effort to tear down the damaged section of Wall 22, and then immediately moved into the build of the newly engineered replacement roadway.

NJDOT released several bullets highlighting key new engineering aspects of the new design, but a full overview has not been offered yet (I’ve reached out for more details)

NJDOT Direct Connection 295/76/42 Project Update

Currently the wall and roadway rebuild is fully underway.

Key aspects are a reduced slope in front of the raised roadway, as well as hundreds of steel pilings driven deep into the ground to create a solid base for the wall foundation to rest on.

On the left side of the replacement wall, several interior concrete columns look ready to be poured.

Another notable aspect is an interior concrete ”shelf” which appears to be intended to hold back some of the stress of the raise roadway, but its full purpose has not yet been fully explained.

Direct Connection Wall rebuild shows the reduced front slope, and 100s of steel pilings.

Tunnel Slope

The project also includes a tunnel for traffic to move underneath a segment of the raised 295 roadway. This was completed several years ago.

The northern exterior aspect of this tunnel is an earthen slope, and in the last year work has been done to improve it’s implementation by reducing the slope angle via the development of a short retaining wall.

Rebuilt northern tunnel slow, Direct Connection Route 295

It appears that previously the slope was a much steeper grade going directly to the ground, which caused noticeable soil slippage/erosion in the area of the slope.

With a new retaining wall in place, the angle of the slope is reduced which should remove erosion/slippage of the soil.  In recent photos this aspect of the project appears to be mostly complete.

“Dukes of Hazzard” Ramp – Route 42 North

The video also highlights an explanation of what some have called the “Dukes of Hazzard” ramp, which is a currently unused ramp developed adjacent to Northbound Route 42.

Ramp is the future Route 42 North to Route 295 North

This ramp will eventually become the roadway for travelers from Route 42 North heading to Route 295 North. Starting with the ramp, this segment of roadway will also be significantly in the air, travel over top of the Browning Road bridge and finally connect to the area where Wall 22 is being rebuilt.

The video does a better job of explaining this “ramp” aspect! If you understand this aspect, you understand the core purpose of this road project.

Overhead roadways to come for Route 295 and Route 42 North (to 295 North) as part of the Direct Connection project in Bellmawr

Direct Connection – Updated Completion Date

Lastly, I have an update on the completion date for the Direct Connection project, which is now set for… 2032!

This information comes from a recent Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission meeting where in their role as representing Federal Highway projects in the area, they were asked to approve changes in the final contract (number 4) which also included a change in the completion date… to 2032.

Construction on the Direct Connection effort formally started in Spring of 2013, so this puts the current project length at 19 years.

With the start in 2013 the project was estimated to take 8 years with a completion year of 2021.