Federal, state, county and municipal officials ceremonially broke ground Monday for the Route 22/Chimney Rock Road Interchange project.
The ceremony was hosted by the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, led by Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh. Other speakers included Rep. Leonard Lance, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Freeholder Deputy Director Peter S. Palmer, the board’s liaison to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority [NJTPA]; Bridgewater Township Mayor Daniel Hayes and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) District Manager Joseph Birchenough.
“If you’ve ever driven this part of Route 22, you know why this interchange project is vital to motorists, businesses and residents,” Walsh said in a release on the groundbreaking. “More than 70,000 vehicles a day travel this portion of Route 22. This section of highway has a crash rate of nearly seven times greater than the statewide average for similar roadways.”
The interchange was first proposed in a traffic study conducted by the Regional Center Partnership in the late 1990s.
“A project like this one is critically important to Bridgewater, Somerset County and indeed the greater region,” said Palmer, who acknowledged the NJTPA’s, NJDOT’s and county’s role in moving the project forward in the release. “Route 22 is an important east-west route through Central New Jersey that links many business and industrial sites. Chimney Rock Road also houses many important businesses that provide employment for residents of Somerset County and beyond.
“It speaks volumes about the capabilities and reputation of our engineering division that the DOT would turn over management of a major project on a state highway to Somerset County,” he added.
The long-awaited interchange project will create an eastern gateway to the state-designated "Regional Center," consisting of Bridgewater, Somerville and Raritan.
The primary purpose of the project is to improve safety in the heavily traveled Route 22/Chimney Rock Road area. The design includes the construction of a full-service interchange at Route 22 and Chimney Rock Road that will satisfy current and future traffic demands, and meet the mobility goals for the area.
The $56.7-million federally funded construction contract was awarded in January to Anselmi and DeCicco, Inc. of Maplewood. Of the contract total, only a little over $100,000 will come from county capital funds.