Solving a problem that has plagued the southern part of Secaucus for more than a decade, the town will reconstruct the private Castle Road, in the southern part of town, for an estimated cost of $2 million. Then they will ask the businesses owning property along the road to reimburse the town.
In April, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (Formerly the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission) approved a $100,000 grant for a study of the Castle Road upgrade. The contract was later awarded to the PMK Group.
"We've finished that study and made our recommendations," said Gerald Pericone, the Secaucus town engineer and partner in PMK, during an interview last week.
Although repairs have been made to the road over the last decade, Castle Road has been an engineering disaster, so full of potholes and other problems that many businesses along the roadway have suffered additional costs in maintenance of vehicles.
The issue came to the town's attention in 1988 when owners asked the town to take over the road.
A study done by engineers for Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority in 1988 concluded that sewers in the area were a mishmosh of forced (pumped out) and gravity (which water falls into) mains as well as a number of pump stations, all of which would cause the town significant problems if the town were to take over operations.
According to SMUA officials at the time, the roads and sewers were built under New Jersey Meadowlands Commission permits, but never built up to the town's specifications, nor was construction supervised by the town.
Original plans for construction called for a straight road. What was constructed proved significantly curved.
Maintenance of the roadway surface has also been deplorable. Huge gaping craters have formed in front of the loading docks of several warehouse companies, where trucks gave the poorly constructed roadway additional pounding.
Trucks, buses and cars often have to drive on the wrong side of the road to circumvent these craters. For years, business owners dreaded winter because the road did not get plowed. One winter, the town actually closed Castle Road after a truck overturned there during icy conditions.
The problem, according to town officials, was the inability of anyone to determine just who owned the road, and thus who should maintain it.
Who owned the road?
The ownership problem resulted from a division and sale of the private roadway as part of an industrial condominium package - which over the years became difficult to untangle.
Hartz Mountain Industries originally constructed the road, along with many of the other roads in the area that the town has taken over during the last few years. It built the road for the businesses and warehouses that it constructed around it. Then, the buyers of these businesses had joint ownership of the road through a company called Suburban Capital Inc. which went bankrupt in 1993 while in the middle of designing an improvement plan.
While business owners and town officials came to several agreements over the last decade, and eventually - due to business owners getting together - repairs were made, the roadway has been a constant problem.
A 1999 HMDC (now NJMC) study of the south end of Secaucus showed significant problems facing future development in the area, including hazardous conditions for pedestrians and narrow roadways.
Castle Road, which is a moonscape of potholes and other repair problems, is one of the key routes through the HJMC's redevelopment zone.
"Castle Road is in tremendous need of improvement," the report said, "with pavement, curbing drainage, sanitary sewer and streetscape landscaping far below acceptable standards."
Mayor Dennis Elwell said a meeting of property owners is slated for mid-September, where the final details will be hashed out. The town will bid the project, monitor the upgrade, then will assess each owner along the road according to frontage - or how many feet along the road each owner has.
"We're going to do a special assessment," Elwell said. "Gerry Pericone has done a preliminary study and design for the road repair."
But town officials, Elwell said, will need to sit down with members of the SMUA to look into the details for storm and sanitary sewer improvements.
"We're going to fix the road and align the drainage," Pericone said. "We have an preliminary estimate that ranges between $1.8 million and $2.2 million."
While some sanitary sewerage improvements may be included in this, the mayor said a further review must be done by the SMUA. He said once the road is brought up to the town's standards, the town will take it over, the way it has 11 other roads formerly owned by Hartz Mountain.