HOBOKEN -- County engineers told Hudson County Freeholders at Thursday's meeting that a study done of Sinatra Drive by Hoboken-hired Boswell Engineers after the 2010 collapse of a portion between 13th and 14th Street showed no risk to another section between 14th and 15th streets, despite a warning issued by a firm hired by the county.
But engineers said recent events and deterioration to other portions of the Hoboken waterfront have raised concerns that problems could be emerging since, and said a proposed study of the bulk heads is needed.
The freeholders on Thursday authorized the hiring of divers to review bulkheads in the area.
Hoboken Freeholder Anthony Romano said while he was confident that the report by Boswell Engineering done for the city of Hoboken painted a clearer picture that the public was not at risk after the first collapse, he said rapid deterioration of other parts of the waterfront was a concern that required the county to review the matter.
Freeholder Bill O'Dea grilled engineers, who previously said they had not followed up on warnings issued by a county-hired firm that had recommended a study of additional sections of Sinatra Drive be done for fear of risk of additional collapse.
In clarifying this position, county engineers told the freeholders that there were structural differences between the two sections of the road, saying that the section that had collapsed had been entirely built on wooden pilings, while the street section between 14th and 15th streets had some wooden elements, but also had pilings made of concrete, which are more resistant to the parasite that caused the deterioration in the first place.
On Friday, the county issued a press release stating:
The Hudson County Division of Engineering is seeking to contract Langan Engineering of Elmwood Park, N.J. to conduct an inspection of the area of Sinatra Drive North adjacent to a section of the roadway that collapsed at 14th Street in Hoboken in 2010. The cost of this inspection is estimated to be $39,000.
Over the last year, the Division of Engineering sought federal funding for the inspection from a program operated by the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration focused on bridge safety. Winning such funds would have been the first step toward winning federal funding to conduct any future repairs. (The cost of repairing the collapsed section in 2010 exceeded $2 million.)
Ultimately the inspection of this section of Sinatra Drive North, which does sit on an underwater platform structure akin to a bridge, was not deemed eligible for funding through this federal program.
Prior to seeking the federal funding, the County Engineer was provided with a copy of the Hoboken Waterfront Safety Inspection Report commissioned by the city of Hoboken and carried out by Boswell Engineering of South Hackensack, NJ.
Based on that report, which indicated that there was no immediate danger of collapse for the section of Sinatra Drive North in question, the County Engineer believed in his professional opinion, that he could take the time required to explore whether the inspection could be funded federally.
Under questioning on Tuesday at the most recent Caucus Meeting of The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, one member, whose district does not include the area in question, used language in an inspection report carried by Lagan Engineering immediately following the collapse of the section of Sinatra Drive North to question the decision of County Division of Engineering to take the time it did to seek the grant.
The County Engineer attempted to explain during this questioning that in fact the Boswell report followed the first Langan Report (Boswell's was more recent) and that based on that report, he believed, in his professional opinion, that waiting to seek possible federal funding did not put the public at any risk.
“I want to assure residents that I have complete faith in our Engineer’s decisions in this matter,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. “It is unfortunate that there appears to have been an effort to inflame public opinion regarding the inspection process during the recent caucus. Seeking possible federal dollars to underwrite this inspection was a sensible financial decision backed by sound science and the fullest possible concern for public safety.”
There are absolutely no plans to close this section of Sinatra Drive North.