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 route 36 highlands bridge replacement graphic


The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) began Route 36 engineering studies and evaluated rehabilitation and replacement in 1985. At that time, NJDOT initially contacted stakeholders to determine the bridge's needs.

These are some of the major milestones in the process:

The bridge enables motorists from Highlands to reach Sandy Hook Park and Sea Bright Borough photo.
The bridge enables motorists from Highlands to reach Sandy Hook Park and Sea Bright Borough.

1988 | 1989 | 1991 | 1992 | 1995 | 1996 | 1998 | 1999
2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007

July 1988
NJDOT's 1988 study recommended rehabilitation actions including:

  • widening and strengthening of bascule and approach spans;
  • replacing the approach span superstructure and the open bridge deck of the bascule span; and
  • upgrading ramp geometry and bridge drainage/electrical/mechanical systems.

May 1989
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the replacement of the bridge deck and incidental deteriorated stringers, based on the increased rating of the superstructure steel members using load factor analysis.

October 1991
NJDOT's recommendation to build a fixed bridge with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over mean high water that would replace the movable bridge was based on a value engineering analysis that assigned a savings of $20 million more than the cost-improvement actions outlined in the 1988 study report.

December 1991
FHWA concurred with NJDOT's recommendation to construct a 55-foot fixed bridge. The agency understood that a fixed bridge replacement represented a long-term solution to the structural deficiencies and traffic problems in the area associated with numerous span openings. FHWA recommended that NJDOT perform additional analysis.

August 1992
FHWA recommended implementation of NJDOT's proposal to construct a fixed bridge, based on the following agreements between FHWA and NJDOT in March and July 1992:

  • prepare an alternatives analysis to satisfy Section 4(f) and Section 106 criteria and to meet the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection/United States Army Corps of Engineers (NJDEP/USACE) permit requirements;
  • prepare a design exception for a design speed that is lower than 50 miles per hour (mph); and
  • conduct a site review to discuss the value of sidewalks on the bridge.

NJDOT prepared and submitted the Alternatives Analysis to FHWA for approval as part of the Feasibility Assessment Report (FAR) (pdf 1.8m) which included:

  • the FHWA-acceptable design speed data for 45 mph, and
  • a May 1996 sidewalk study to validate the FHWA recommendation to use a single sidewalk. Subsequent reviews by NJDOT and public comments resulted in FHWA accepting the sidewalks on both sides of the new structure in June 2001.

Some files are in Portable Document Format (PDF). You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the files, which is available free from our state Adobe Access page.

August 1995
NJDOT held a Public Information Center (PIC) on August 21 to present two alternatives, which included a high-level fixed bridge with a 60-foot vertical clearance and a partial replacement of the existing bridge superstructure and deck.

September 1996
NJDOT filed for a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) permit for a fixed bridge with a vertical clearance of 60 feet. Concurrently, NJDOT prepared a Historic Bridge Alternatives Analysis that was submitted to and reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in November 1996.

However, the USCG subsequently rejected the 60-foot vertical clearance feature, noting that river traffic required bridge elevations higher than 60 feet. During the same period, the USACE indicated that an estimated vertical clearance of 100 feet would be needed to maneuver dredge equipment under the bridge. NJDOT concluded that reaching such an elevation with a fixed span was not feasible due to the limitations of the landscape. The length and profile of a 100-foot bridge over the channel would require extensive right of way and would require major changes to and closure of the intersections on both sides of the project.

March 1998
An optimum height analysis report discussed four vertical clearances for a high-level, movable bridge in a closed position, and concluded that a bascule bridge with a minimum vertical clearance of 55 feet over the navigation channel provided an optimum combined flow for vessels and vehicular traffic. This alternative would also have the least life cycle cost for any double leaf bascule plan studied.

December 1999
An evaluation of alternatives report described all studies/analyses associated with the Highlands Bridge rehabilitation and summarized potential design options. The report also noted permit issues, and recommended that NJDOT build a new movable bridge with a 55-foot vertical clearance in the closed position replaced on-line.

October 2000
NJDOT prepared an environmental screening report that indicated there are no environmental concerns to preclude the bridge replacement project.

December 2000
The Scoping Team met to collect NJDOT's input for the feasibility study evaluation of alternatives.

April 2001
Recognizing the large number of local and regional entities and agencies involved in this bridge replacement project, NJDOT chose to enhance community outreach by adding a facilitator to the project team in order to establish a Community Partnering Team (CPT). CPT Meeting One was held to establish the CPT and to exchange information on the project design. This meeting was also used to identify additional community issues and concerns that were categorized into four general topics:

  • bicycle and pedestrian access;
  • traffic congestions and safety;
  • bridge design, operations and aesthetics, and
  • communication and public awareness.

May 2001
The FAR (pdf 1.8m) recommended a 55-foot high movable bridge within the existing alignment as the initially preferred alternative (IPA).

June 2001
John Tavolaro of the USACE stated that "there is no Corps of Engineers' requirement for vertical clearance under the proposed bridge to accommodate dredging activities." This determination on the Highlands Bridge replacement project resulted in the September 1996 request for a 100-foot vertical clearance by the USACE as no longer applicable. This allowed for the analysis for a fixed bridge replacement alternative that met the Coast Guard's approval and was geometrically viable with the area's physical constraints.

June-August 2001
The alternatives in the FAR (pdf 1.8m) were modified to include a 65-foot high fixed bridge as the recommended Preferred Alternative.

June, July and October 2001
The Steering Committee discussed issues raised at the CPT meeting and subsequent Task Force meetings, and made recommendations for proceeding with the design.

July and December 2001
The Sandy Hook Traffic Overflow Task Force held meetings to establish goals, discuss alternatives, and recommended further studies. The group, which was later renamed the Traffic Management Task Force, was created to identify and discuss traffic and access issues for the local and regional communities.

September 2001
NJDOT indicated that "no further environmental screening would be required due to the change in project scope from a movable to a fixed bridge."

February 2002
At a pre-application meeting with the USCG, the Steering Committee decided that for navigational purposes, the intent to construct a fixed bridge with a vertical clearance of 65-feet would be adopted.

June 2002
The Steering Committee met to prepare for the upcoming CPT meeting.

July 2002
The CPT held Meeting Number Two to update the community on the project status, review the bridge design concepts and discuss the developments of the task forces concerning the toll plaza, ramps and traffic related issues.

NJDOT suggested an alignment modification in order to save construction costs and time. By shifting the alignment slightly southward, part of the new structure could be constructed at an early stage and be used to maintain traffic during subsequent stages, thus reducing the need for a temporary bridge during construction.

August 2002
NJDOT presented the project to the New Jersey Bicycle Advisory Council and identified the importance and key concerns of recreational and competitive cyclists.

The Steering Committee identified issues that were raised at the CPT meeting and prepared materials for the upcoming PIC meetings.

NJDOT briefed Highlands Borough public officials in August 2002.

September and October 2002
NJDOT held PIC meetings in the boroughs of Highlands and Sea Bright and at Sandy Hook to present the project and to obtain public input.

October 2002
The Steering Committee discussed comments provided at the PIC meetings, agenda items for task force meetings and next steps in the project schedule.

Members of the Bike Pedestrian Connections Task Force Meeting Number One met to identify issues and develop recommendations for bicycle and pedestrian access and connections to and from Highlands, Sea Bright and Sandy Hook.

October and December 2002
The Traffic Management Task Force met to prioritize issues and develop recommendations to improve traffic operations.

The Bike Pedestrian Connections Task Force met to discuss bicycle and pedestrian mobility, prioritize issues and to make recommendations to the Steering Committee.

NJDOT held a public hearing at Sea Bright Municipal Building to request a resolution of support.

September 2002
NJDOT advertised for the preliminary and Final Design contract, which was awarded in December 2002.

NJDOT held a PIC at Highlands Municipal Building in order to request a resolution of support.

December 2002
NJDOT began Preliminary Design.

At the Traffic Management Task Force Meeting Number Four members prioritized issues, developed options to address traffic and made recommendations to the Steering Committee.

At the Bike Pedestrian Connections Task Force Meeting Number Two members discussed bike and pedestrian mobility, reviewed options and made recommendations to the Steering Committee.

The National Park Service (NPS) gave the project a Resolution of Support.

January 2003 and December 2003
The Steering Committee reviewed recommendations for the Task Force meetings, prepared for work and discussed the project's funding and status.

February 2003
The Boroughs of Highlands and Sea Bright each gave NJDOT a Resolution of Support for the replacement of the Highlands Bridge with a fixed bridge.

August 2004
NJDOT finalized the Design Appraisal Statement including the Concept Evaluation Matrix to select the structure type for Final Design. This matrix compared cost, constructibility, aesthetics, maintainability/inspection, and serviceability for four structure types: Steel I-Girder, Steel Box Girder, Prestressed Concrete Girder and Precast Segmental Concrete Box Girder, and documented the recommendation for a Precast Segmental Concrete Box Girder Bridge.

The Steering Committee presented the project status, prepared for the next CPT meeting and planned for the next PIC, at which it would present the proposed design improvements.

October 2004
At CPT Meeting Number Three, NJDOT presented the bridge selection type, informed the team of environmental coordination efforts, identified and discussed design and construction issues, and prepared for the next PIC.

December 2004
NJDOT held the next PIC for the project in Sea Bright and displayed bridge renderings including the pedestrian overpasses and NPS toll plaza improvements, traffic modeling and construction staging.

March 2005
NJDOT received a Resolution of Support from the Borough of Sea Bright for the replacement of the bridge.

June 2005
NJDOT and FHWA received the Preliminary Design Submission for review and approval. The design featured a precast segmental concrete box girder bridge to be built by the balanced cantilever method and precast piers.

July 2005
The Steering Committee presented the project status, determined the next steps for CPT and public outreach and provided Preliminary Design Plans to the Boroughs of Highlands and Sea Bright and the NPS.

The Council passed a resolution that authorized the Highlands Mayor and Clerk to execute utility and construction agreements for the Borough.

September 2005
The FHWA signed the Categorical Exclusion Document, which allowed the project to proceed to Final Design.

NJDOT addressed Preliminary Design submission comments and accepted the Preliminary Design submittal as complete.

November 2005
At the Environmental Coordination Meeting Number One, NJDOT presented the project status and schedule, addressed environmental compliance and mitigation efforts and discussed permitting procedures.

The Steering Committee reviewed the project status and schedule and discussed design, jurisdictional agreements and results of the Environmental Coordination Meeting. In addition, the Steering Committee determined the next steps for establishing task forces and community outreach.

December 2005
At the Jurisdictional Agreement Meeting Number One, NJDOT reviewed pedestrian overpass renderings and design considerations, discussed the NPS toll plaza, reviewed jurisdictional agreements with Sea Bright, Highlands and NPS, and prepared for the Aesthetics Task Force.

NJDOT held a meeting regarding the development of the environmental permit project schedule.

January 2006
The Final Design work began.

At the Aesthetics Task Force Meeting Number One (pdf 59k), NJDOT established the task force and its goals, refined the historic significance of the Twin Lights view shed issue, reviewed SHPO's involvement in cultural resource mitigation, and identified the aesthetic elements under development for the bridge replacement.

February 2006
At the Aesthetics Task Force Meeting Number Two (pdf 59k), NJDOT continued to discuss options for aesthetic features and architectural treatments related to the bridge replacement and associated improvements.

March 2006
NJDOT submitted permit applications to the DEP, USACE and the USCG.

NJDOT and the NPS Gateway National Recreation Area executed a Memorandum of Understanding.

April 2006
NJDOT submitted the USCG Permit Application for clearance to construct the 65-foot fixed bridge.

At the Aesthetics Task Force Meeting Number Three (pdf 66k), NJDOT presented updated aesthetic design treatment renderings, discussed options for each aesthetic element, and made recommendations to the Steering Committee.

June 2006
At the Aesthetics Task Force Meeting Number Four (pdf 58k), NJDOT presented the latest aesthetic design treatments, discussed remaining considerations, and reviewed renderings.

The Steering Committee reviewed the project status and schedule and discussed design considerations, jurisdictional agreements and the results of the Aesthetics Task Force meetings. The Steering Committee also reviewed renderings that NJDOT would present at the Historic Sites Council meeting.

July 2006
At the Traffic and Communication Task Force Meeting Number One, NJDOT established task force objectives; reviewed project status and construction staging; and identified and discussed local traffic management issues and communication needs during construction.

August and October 2006
NJDOT presented to the Historic Sites Council an application to take steps that would mitigate the project's impacts on the Historic Twin Lights view shed.

September 2006
The Steering Committee provided the current project status and schedule and the results of the Traffic and Communications Task Force, Aesthetics Task Force and Historic Sites Council meetings. The Steering Committee also discussed the remaining design considerations and the next steps for the CPT Task Force and outreach programs.

NJDOT presented Green Acres park application information to Highlands residents at a public meeting held by the Borough of Highlands.

January 2007
NJDOT submitted the Final Design.

June 2007
NJDOT presents the design and construction plans to Highlands and Sea Bright residents and local officials.

September 2007
NJDOT advertised the project.

December 2007
NJDOT awarded the project.

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  Last Updated:  January 22, 2009