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July Road Updates; Direct Connection, Missing Moves and i76, Plus All New Upgrades at Tunnel?

July Road Updates; Direct Connection, Missing Moves and i76, Plus All New Upgrades at Tunnel?
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Time for July road updates on three of areas biggest projects; Direct Connection Bellmawr and Wall Rebuild, Missing Moves, and I-76 Klemm Ave and the giant yellow crane!

These three active projects are in a three mile stretch of highway that will significantly change and improve driving patterns in the area once completed… and yes two of them (Missing Moves and i76 over Klemm Ave) will be completed this year!

But of course there seems to be a never ending supply of road projects to fill in!

Direct Connect collapsed roadway is under full rebuild mode! Plus more!

42Freeway has been covering these projects extensively over the last few years so I don’t want to go into too many details rehashing what these projects are, so check out my Transportation Primer for more specific details and links

Keep scrolling and reading for updates!

In June’s update I covered more projects so you can check that out here, or likely in short couple weeks I’ll be doing July Road Update Part 2… and I feel a video coming soon too!

Direct Connection – Roadway Rebuild

Two years ago a significant portion of the under-construction Route 295 roadway in Bellmawr collapsed, when the foundation underneath the raised roadway slid out from underneath causing the main front retaining wall to protrude out, and the roadway sunk in.

The road was not completed nor was it open at the time, so thankfully there were no injuries.

After two years of redesign work, construction has significantly restarted. First, contractors removed the damaged portion of the roadway, and now they are in the rebuilding process.

A new surprising aspect is that significant development attention is being given to what seemed to be a previously completed slope along the side of the tunnel and raised roadway.

Commuters and 42Freeway readers had noticed a few years ago that the earth slope in this area was gradually sliding down… like a small landslide.  But more on that in a second! Keep reading and scrolling!

Direct Connect “Wall 22” site of roadway collapse and rebuild

Direct Connection – Wall 22 Rebuild

The section of collapsed Route 295 roadway in Bellmawr New Jersey is identified as “Wall 22”.

While some structural design decisions of the rebuild were shared with the media, a full design plan/depiction of the wall rebuild was not made available, so we are learning things from observations as they happen.

Several weeks ago workers removed the remaining dirt and wall segments that were in the front portion of Wall 22.

First we can see that (so far) they have only removed the front half roadway section of Wall 22. 

Direct Connect collapsed roadway is under full rebuild mode! Plus more!

We could assume that the back half of the road is stable, which actually does make sense because the collapse of the wall happened when the front side of the slope underneath the raise roadway pushed out from underneath, likely leaving the rear segment unimpacted.

So it seems that if they secure that front slope with a better wall design, the roadway would be solid.

My speculation, to be clear.

Today it appears contractors have sealed the remaining dirt embankment with “riprap” or some loose asphalt, likely temporary to keep the wall from eroding as they finish the reconstruction of the front wall.

Another interesting change with this effort is currently there is a large flat plateau in front of where the new wall is being constructed. 

This is providing a stable flat surface for construction vehicles to operate from, including cranes, bulldozers and pile drivers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this plateau, or at least a portion of it remains in place even after the new wall is rebuilt. One issue with the original design is that the earth slope at the base of the vertical wall was two sharply angled, which reduced the amount of resistance that would be given to hold back the earth foundation directly under the raised roadway.

It was previously stated by the NJDOT media team that the front slope under the rebuilt wall would be changed and less steep.

Another very noticeable aspect is we see that workers have been installing steel H-pile down into the ground via a pile driver.

I wrote about this in the fall when we were provided some details of the new wall built. 

The GREEN highlights show where new H-Pile beams were installed as part of the new foundation support system for the Direct Connection collapsed roadway rebuild.

The design is that the steel H-pile beams would carry the load down into the lower levels of the earth, where they will be more structurally sound to hold back the weight and horizontal pressures of the raised roadway.

I do not know the total number of foundation support beams that are being installed.

Based on findings of the engineering firm hired to determine the cause of the failure, it was stated the original design did not adequately handle the weight and stress load of the roadway structure.

Currently I can see about seven of these steel H-beams in place (or partially in place), and they are positioned within the interior segments of the raised roadway.…  meaning they do not seem to be the elements that will run at the front edge of the roadway, but more so inside of the front vertical wall.

Direct Connection – Tunnel Slope

In earlier stages of the many-years-long project a tunnel was developed underneath the new Route 295 elevated roadway.  Once the project is completed, this tunnel will be used for traffic traveling from I-76 east heading to 295 N. (Today it also supports traffic from 42-North heading to 295-North).

As you approach the tunnel, the outer exposed wall on the left is an earthen slope with grass and other vegetation.

Around the time that the Wall 22 segment collapsed on the main roadway, commuters and readers noticed that this slope on the outside wall of the tunnel was also experiencing some slope slippage of the earth.

This slope alongside the tunnel at the Bellmawr Direct Connection project was seeing some surface land slippage. Seems NJDOT and contractors are addressing it and have removes surface soils and it appears they are developing a lower retaining wall.

It appears that this was also noticed by NJODT and its engineers, as with the restart of development of Wall 22 the tunnel slope is also seeing some development attention.

Currently a 6-to-8 foot high temporary retaining wall has been developed at the base of the entire length of that slope.  Additionally all of the surface grass has been removed from the slope.

While I have not had a chance to confirm all the details of this with NJDOT, it seems contractors are getting ready to build a lower retaining wall for this slope, which will likely offer the benefit of reducing the steep angle of the slope so that the earth covering remains in place.

It appears a new small retaining wall is being developed for the sloped grade adjacent to the tunnel at Direct Connection Bellmawr

Honestly I didn’t know if this was part of the original plans, but I would guess it was not.

The tunnel has been functional and completed for several years now, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense that they would complete the tunnel portion of the project and then come back to it and do additional work… unless they determined after it was completed that there was some additional improvements that were needed.

I will be reaching out to NJDOT on this and a couple of the other points for further clarification.

This angle down the hill shows that they’ve already backfilled dirt up to that retaining wall

Direct Connection Browning Road

The Browning Road Bridge which crosses over I-76/42 is being rebuilt in place, and traffic has been rerouted to a temporary bridge off to the side.

Workers are actively rebuilding the support structures for the upcoming new bridge and making solid progress, but honestly there is not a ton to report here since my last update about a month ago.

Several months ago the western bridge abutment was completed, and work has been progressing on the eastern bridge abutment.

Browning Road bridge rebuild in Bellmawr

That bridge ending point on the side where the cemetery is has been fully removed, dug out significantly further than the old Browning Road bridge.

Temporary construction and retaining walls are in place at that abutment, and it appears that workers will be building the permanent concrete abutment soon.

The bridge will require center column supports, and there were two rows of them from the old bridge.

The first row has been demolished and fully rebuilt.  (I think in my last report they had the column posts in and they were pouring the concrete for the horizontal aspects of that.)

Contractors have not started on the second segment of center roadway columns. Absolutely lane shifts will have to take place to give workers enough room for trucks and cranes in the center of the very busy highway, and I’ll work on getting timelines for that.

Missing Moves – 295 Timber Creek Bridge

The shining star of all these Bellmawr NJ centric projects is absolutely the Missing Moves roadway which will allow commuters to move from 42-North directly onto 295-South…  as well as in the opposite direction, 295-North (from Delaware) to Route 42-South.

With so much road construction taking place in the area, this one will have one of the most significant positive impact on commuters as it introduces a completely new traffic route that simply never existed!

And it is expected that we will be driving on the Missing Moves roadway before the end of the year… but not as early as this summer.

The Missing Moves project will also convert the large Route 55 northbound overpass into full two lanes all the way through the point it connects into Route 42-North.

Missing Moves project in Bellmawr goes all the way down 295 to the Big Timber Creek.

While I did not get updated photos on that segment of Route 55 to 42 , construction crews have been working in that center median space to widen the roadway so that it can accommodate the additional lanes.

So overall the core Missing Moves roadway and bridge structures are significantly completed, and it’s clear to me that commuters themselves are noticing this as I am getting regular messages from people asking if the new roadway will be opening soon!

Well, don’t expect to be driving on missing moves this summer but it is fully anticipated that the roadway will open before the end of the year.

Absolutely from the vantage point of Route 42 it looks like they just need to throw a couple guardrails up, paint some lines and we’re “good to go”!

The piece that people are missing is over on the other far end of the new roadway where it connects to 295 under the Creek Road bridge… well a little further South there’s still a lot of construction work taking place where Route 295 crosses over the Big Timber Creek.

In that Big Timber Creek area they are literally doubling the width of both of the bridges (north and southbound)  to accommodate long acceleration/deceleration lanes.

Missing Moves project in Bellmawr goes all the way down 295 to the Big Timber Creek.

It is very important to Federal Transportation officials (who are paying for this) that our Federal highways are able to operate at full highway speeds, and under the safest conditions.

Literally those goals are a key driver for the entire Direct Connection project!

So in the case of Missing Moves, when a commuter is moving on or off of the new roadway at Route 295, they don’t want that driver to have to slow down or make dangerous lane merges with Route- 295.

So the design includes long acceleration and deceleration lanes similar to what you see when you’re on the Atlantic City Expressway and want to go on to Garden State Parkway South.

So my too-long-to-make point is, even though the main Missing Moves raised roadway looks awesome and significantly completed, they’re not going to open the road until that 295 bridge expansion portion is completed.

I-76 Over Klemm Ave.

I-76 over Klemm Ave is where the MASSIVE yellow crane is located, and the traffic backups!

To most commuters I-76 and Route-42 are the same roadway, and in fact many would call it the North-South Freeway (which I own that domain also, ha!)

I-76 is the portion of roadway that is in the Gloucester City and Camden areas and heads to the two Delaware River bridges.

It had been determined that the overpasses on I-76 are in bad shape and in need of significant repairs.

i76 at Klemm Ave sees half of the roadway rebuilt mostly complete

Currently they are working on the I-76 roadway over top of Klemm Ave. in Gloucester City.

This is a full tear down and rebuild to remove all the decking and steel support structures, and replace with all new materials and construction.

And then there is the crane!

People are fascinated by the massive crane they are using on this project because it is literally the largest crane any of us have seen on an area project!

The reason for this crane is significant portions of this i-76 Klemm Ave project are being developed off site to minimize the full reconstruction project timeline for commuters.

The massive crane at i-76 in Gloucester City.

And those large pieces of steel and precast decking require a large and powerful crane to move those pieces into place across a somewhat large span of area… without tipping over!

I’ve been told the crane is a Liebherr LR-11000 crawler crane, and has a max load capacity of 1,000 tons.

The crane uses a counter-weight system to off the back of it to balance heavy cargo loads being placed across a wide stretch of space!

The roadway is being rebuilt in four segments across a wide opening, so this behemoth crane allows construction crews to place steel and decking components in place from a centrally positioned crane.

This does also cause lanes to be shifted occasionally as construction moves on to additional segments.

The good news on this project is, as you can see by the very recent drone images half of the new decking is in place!

So two of those segments are basically completed, and one of the segments already has traffic on it!

The underside of Klemm Ave overpass, on the rebuilt side.

Over last weekend lanes were moved around again to reposition that massive crane so that it can begin working on the remaining two segments of the roadway.

Currently the crane sits almost dead center of I-76, and I believe where it sits now is just a temporary holding spot.

Once that second segment of the roadway is able to support traffic, they will likely move the crane over into the third segment so that that redevelopment work can begin there, and traffic will be fully utilizing the new half of the roadway

I think that makes sense the way I wrote it… well a video is coming soon!

NJDOT also recently produced a video to show how they are using a movable center barrier system to shift lanes over in an effort to better accommodate morning and evening rush hours as well as traffic heading to and from the Jersey Shore in the summer months. Video at the bottom.

This is a similar movable barrier system as what is in use at the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges!

People are fascinated with this crane… I’ll have more on it shortly!

NJDOT i76 at Klemm Ave Moveable Barrier Video

The following video was produced by NJDOT to show how they are using moveable traffic barriers at the i-76 Klemm Ave overpass project