Howell residents stew as bridge project lingers

Staff Writer

HOWELL— The Echo Lake bridge replacement project in Howell which was initially slated for a Dec. 31, 2011, completion date is now targeted for completion in March, according to Monmouth County officials.

Delays on the bridge project, which also includes repairs to a nearby dam, have been a source of frustration for some residents.

Laura Kirkpatrick, Monmouth County public information officer, said work on the bridge, on Maxim Southard Road, experienced extensive delays due to Hurricane Irene after that storm struck the area in late August.

“County crews in addition to the contractor were pulled from that job [in Howell] to do more pressing and immediate repairs,” Kirkpatrick said.

Construction crews are waiting for a custom-manufactured gate valve that opens and closes the gate to allow water flow for the nearby Echo Lake Dam, which is also being repaired, Kirkpatrick said.

“The reason they can’t open the bridge is because there is a pipe going across the road to divert the water away from the dam,” she said. “Once the dam is repaired, they can remove the pipe, redirect the water to let the water flow as it should, and then they can open the road. We’re in the home stretch.”

The project began in the summer, and Maxim Southard Road was closed from Locust Avenue to Lanes Mill Road.

A detour was implemented to re-route traffic around the project, and the Echo Lake Pavilion remained open and accessible from Lanes Mill Road.

Pam Brezina, a resident of Sweetbriar Trail, said the delay has been a source of frustration.

“It is very inconvenient for those of us who live in the Oak Glen section,” Brezina said, adding that she had to travel Locust Avenue and drive through the Howell Commons shopping center to go grocery shopping.

She said she was also disappointed by what she called a lack of transparency by the township and the county.

“In December my husband noticed on the [Howell] website that the deadline for the completion [of the bridge] had been removed. It wasn’t saying when it was going to be done now,” she said.

She said she and her husband occasionally drive by the detour and said they have never seen anyone working at the site.

“It looks exactly the way it did last summer,” Brezina said. “It’s like they dropped off the machinery and walked away. If the county is going to do work, it would help if they would keep the residents informed.”