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November Roads: Missing Moves Opening? The Wall and Rt 42 Blackwood

November Roads: Missing Moves Opening? The Wall and Rt 42 Blackwood
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This is an (early) November road update for three South Jersey Road projects, but I also offer some commentary on the timing of the opening of the Missing Moves project in Bellmawr!

Additionally, I also visited the “Route 42 over Blackwood Trail” bridge project as well as the Direct Connection Wall/Roadway rebuild in Bellmawr.

For the Direct Connection Wall rebuild I’ll be very honest… there is some interesting progress at the site.. but I am not 100% sure of how it fits into the rebuild! Working on getting answers.

But clearly the most talked about road project right now is the Missing Moves project Bellmawr, which based on construction progress seen from Route 42, everyone is realizing is VERY close to being completed.

The $180 Million Missing Moves project in Bellmawr will be completed very soon. View is pointing down Route 42 South.

Plus let’s not forget that recently the I-76 Klemm Avenue project also reached a significant milestone when all five lanes of the roadway in both directions were reopened, which significantly improved traffic flow from what was experienced over the summer when lanes were reduced.

So amidst all of the large road projects taking place in the extended 42Freeway area… things are getting completed! Read on for the (early) November Road Update! i didn’t visit all of the projects I cover, and I still have to cover the Route 47 bridge project, the “ramp” on Route 42 North, and… coming soon the Glassboro-Camden Line train!

Also I may be wrapping these images into a video update on Wednesday Morning. All new images in this article were taken in the last few days, most on Sunday Nov 5th.

Missing Moves – Status

The big news this month is people are getting excited about the very visible “well heck it looks almost done” progress at the Missing Moves project sites. For the last week or more I have been getting numerous messages and emails asking when it opens  “Mark, it looks ready!  Like it could open any day!”

If you are unfamiliar, the $180 Million Missing Moves project connects the northern end of Route 42 with the southern portions of 295.

It is a highway passage that we have never had, which for decades has caused many commuters to exit one highway and head on to slower and more congested local roads, to then access the other highway segment at an exit miles away. If you want more info on the roadway route, on September 21st I created a “Route Explainer” post and video.

And yes, absolutely I agree that this project is in it’s last weeks of construction.

The main straight run of the Missing Moves project in Bellmawr NJ

Honestly, from my casual observations across the project sites it seems core construction elements are all done except for maybe the final asphalt top coat across Route 42 and 295 in the construction area (in progress), related line painting, and I noticed that some of the pedestrian protective fencing on the new Creek road bridge needs to be completed.

And I am not the only one noticing.  It doesn’t take an FAA certified drone pilot to figure out that we’re really going to be driving on this new roadway very soon!

The 100,000+  commuters on Route 42 who drive past the construction site each day have all been watching Missing Moves rise all around them (and above) for the last three years.  Maybe even more than I, as regular commuters are driving through every work day.

Route 295 bridges over Big Timber Creek were widened as part of the Bellmawr Missing Moves project.. and this segment is done! Not a piece of construction equipment to be seen!

That being said I’ve been cautioning everyone’s excitement over the last few months by reminding them that over at Rt 295 where it crosses the Big Timber Creek, the roadway bridges there were doubled in width to accommodate acceleration lanes.

To check on the status, on Sunday I visited the Route 295 roadway bridge site with my drone, and absolutely even  that portion of the project is completed.   The construction equipment was gone!

A challenging part of the Route 295 Timber Creek segment is the expanded roadway surface needed new piers to be developed in the creek.  This required temporary cofferdams to be developed… which are vertical tubes in the water where water is removed inside, so that the new piers could be constructed within the temporary structures dry environment.

Depiction shows how the wider Rt 295 bridges over Big Timber creek allow space for extra lanes supporting the connection to the Missing Moves.

In this Rt 295 area around the new bridges, the asphalt paving topcoat needed to be added, which will also raise roadway in line with the concrete bridge surface, making it a very smooth drive.

Over the last few weeks they have been working on repaving the northbound lanes of Route 42 and painting lines.

Today they are working on the southbound lanes of Route 42, which has impacted the ability of cars to enter 42 S from that Bellmawr Leaf Avenue exit.

A building sat at the end of Harding Ave (where you turn towards 42 South). Recently the building was demolished, property cleaned up, and lot was regraded.

In that area of the Bellmawr Route 42 South entrance, a building was recently demolished and the land was cleared. They building which sat at the end of Harding Ave, at the corner where you then turn left on to Route 42 South, was used previously for the Landfill development company and engineers, and then by the Missing Moves team.

So the final key goal for the entire project area roadways is to fully repaved with new asphalt, and paint the highway lines to accommodate the newer slightly adjusted traffic patterns.

Speaking of new traffic patterns, one big commuter wish list really is coming true!

Yes! Route 55 North over Route 42 will be two-lanes all the way through! The lanes are already painted, but only one lane is open for now.

The large Route 55 Northbound bridge over Route 42 will be made two full lanes all the way through! The new lanes have already been painted.

For the right lane over the Rt 55 overpass, it will continue on all the way up to the new Missing Moves exit ramp. That being said, traffic is free to move in and out of that lane from the Route 42 pass-through lanes.

Missing Moves – When?

So finally.. what do I know about dates?  Well it’s never that easy!

First thing is NJDOT (and almost any big construction project) typically does not publish opening dates too far in advance, even when they have a somewhat solid idea of the day. 

There’s just too many opportunities for late delays in the final weeks of construction and approvals!

And trust me this is a big story for South Jersey, so absolutely if I already had an official date from NJDOT I would’ve dropped everything to have it online!

So unfortunately the “Missing Moves Opening Date” announcement has not yet officially been made.

That being said I do have a VERY unofficial and specific date that is the target, which comes from contacts involved in the project.

Missing Moves in Bellmawr opens soon! You can see the highway lane markings have been painted

So simply for now I am sharing that the last week of November is the TARGET for when the new Missing Moves roadway is expected to open. This “expected” range is not an official statement from NJDOT tho!

With the final steps of the project in process and Thanksgiving being the week before, targeting the last week (4 day window) seems very reasonable.

You’ll likely hear from me again on this when I do have the 100% locked in date, and of course I’ll write another article!  Ha!   But I plan on also adding in a photo history of the project over the last 3 1/2 years just to demonstrate how well this Missing Moves effort was designed and implemented.

Over the timeframe of this project I have probably visited the sites many dozens of times, and likely have have more photos of the project progress than anybody in media.!

Route 42 at Blackwood Trail

A few miles South on Route 42, the project to replace the two large overpass bridges which are in place over former Conrail tracks has crossed another milestone.

First, just three weeks ago NJDOT completed a temporary center set of lanes in the roadway, so that Route 42 northbound traffic could be routed off of the overpass bridge.

That in itself was significant because that center lane space literally did not exist prior.  It was previously just empty air between the two bridges… so that alone was the first full implementation of the new design.

Now with traffic off of the main route 42 N lanes in this area, contractors started the effort to dismantle the Route 42 Northbound bridge.

Route 42 at Blackwood Trail. The original Northbound lane bridge has been completely removed ahead of roadway rebuild.

I noticed last week just peeking over the construction barriers as I drove by that the roadway bridge was gone!

I stopped over Sunday morning with the drone and grab some photos of what it looks like.

Since contractors had previously installed the large pedestrian tunnel underneath the roadway bridge, you can now clearly see the tunnel which was mostly hidden from view.

Contractors are now working on cleanup in the area and soon will likely start backfilling over top of the tunnel with dirt, up to the level of the roadway

Which if you didn’t understand what was trying to be achieved with this project, I feel this photo as well as understanding that center lane is backfilled dirt… should make things more clear regarding what the final implementation will be.

Depiction shoes area of Route 42 North at Blackwood Trail, where northbound traffic temporarily travels in the center median, as the roadway is rebuilt.

So once the dirt is backfilled and compacted down, a new traditional roadway surface will be developed for 42 Northbound. The bridge will be gone.

Once the new Route 42 roadway surface is competed and traffic is moved back to use it, contractors will move on to the Southbound roadway bridge… and utilize that temporary paved center lanes to move traffic over again.

And the process is repeated

While I don’t have time estimates on individual segments, NJDOT says this project will be completed in the Summer of 2024.

Direct Connection “Wall 22” Rebuild

Back over in Bellmawr, the construction crews at the Direct Connection Wall 22 collapse are now also making great progress on the rebuild effort.

But for me, not having seen plans for the final design I can’t say I fully understand the full final plan! I will be asking NJDOT for clarity and report on that at a later date.

The Direct Connection Wall 22 where the roadway collapse happened. Construction crews are actively working on the rebuild.

For my Sunday visit I also checked on the a second section of that not-opened-yet raised 295 roadway, where the raised earth on the side was sliding.. and the rebuild includes retaining walls to reduce the slope angle.

For the core wall collapse area, earlier this the year construction crews started the effort to further demo the original roadway design, and then rebuild the wall and roadway using a different engineering design.

I covered this more back in October 2022, but in summary the new design:

  • New Wall Design: cast-in-place reinforced concrete wall with Steel H-pile and drilled shaft deep foundations on a flatter slope.
  • Foundation: Steel H-Pile provides extra strength as the three planes support each other to resist lateral stress. Drilled shaft foundations: A drilled deep hole which is then filled with reinforced concrete.
  • Flatter Slopes: The raised roadway sits atop sloped earth, and in the original design the slopes were very tall steep… this reduced resistance which would hold the raised earth foundations in place.
The rebuild of the Direct Connection roadway is well underway. One aspect seen here is the front slope of the project area will not be as steep as before.

With the project area cleared of unnecessary raised roadway aspects, contractors shifted into rebuild mode.

As I reported in August of this year, a 3 ½ month effort to drive 651 piles deep into the ground, was started. This was to develop a firmly anchored foundation to secure the raised roadway above, particularly to manage lateral stress.

So finally to what is taking place most recently.

For the rebuild if Direct Connection Route 295 Wall22, only the front half of the raised roadway was removed. Workers have built a concrete foundation for new segments of the raised roadway.

Contractors have started building a long foundation in line with the wall rebuild. A thick and wide concrete foundation.

So some observations that I don’t immediately know the answer too… I am not certain that this is the outer wall foundation, as based on it’s positioning it appears to be placed INSIDE the raise roadway!?

On the Southern side of the wall, they have boxed out the end foundation… raised up from the adjacent ground. But it appears to not go as far as the prior raised roadway.. and doesnt include the 4 damaged columns that were there.. which were encased in the raised earth before.

At the south end of the direct connection wall/roadway rebuild you can see the concrete foundation base that is in place. It does not extend as far south as the prior build. Makes me think there is more to come.

More telling is when you look at the North side closest to the tunnel. There its very clear that this new foundation is a good 30 feet back from where the end of the wall could be.

While NJDOT has provided summary bullets on the new Wall 22 design, they have never released any renderings of design which would explain the rebuild.

I will ask the NJDOT team for the renderings.. I would imagine there are summary presentation materials within NJDOT that were created for meetings and executive approvals.

Shows how the new concrete foundation that was developed for Direct Connection wall rebuild is a good 25 feet inset from the exterior wall.

Lastly, another portion of the raise roadway has been seeing some modifications.. targeted and reducing the side slope of the raised roaday.

If you followed the front face of where the wall will be, around past the tunnel.. contractors there have created at the base of the slop a raise retaining walll. this wall allowed the angle of the side slope to be adjusted so that it is not as steep.

Before this extra work was done, it was noticed by many that the steepness of the slope was causing the soil to slide.

The slope on this segment of the Direction Connection Rt 295 raised roadway was experiencing soil slippage. A new retaining wall was built so that the slope angle could be reduced.