Hurricane aftermath spurs new look at Marcellus Bridge legislation

While the level of precipitation produced by Hurricane Sandy was not as high as it was with Hurricane Irene, Bergen County-based lawmakers said the need to upgrade a key bridge there to prevent future flooding is still a top priority.

“This was more of a wind event,” said Sen. Robert Gordon today as the state continued to dry out and restore power.

Last session, several Democratic lawmakers sponsored legislation that would foot $10 million toward the upgrade of the Marcellus Bridge. The bridge, according to the lawmakers, is notorious for flooding, largely because of concrete impediments that create a barrier instead of allowing water and debris to flow through.

In June, the governor vetoed the legislation.

However, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, (D-38), Paramus, said she plans on introducing legislation related to the project. This time, however, she will take a more piecemeal approach. She said legislation is being written “right as we speak” to appropriate $750,000 toward the design of a new and improved Marcellus Bridge.

“I still feel it is an important investment to make,” she said, adding that even if the project won’t stop flooding altogether, it can prevent some of the ramifications.

“I think what this storm has done is that it reminded us we have to have massive improvements to our infrastructure,” Wagner said on Wednesday as she was making the rounds to various senior citizen centers. “These storms are getting stronger and more serious. People are beginning to panic.

“We have got to take a serious look at our roads, bridges, tunnels, electric grids,” she said.  

She said she was grateful there wasn’t more water-related damage than there was, saying the damage that occurred in such places as the Jersey Shore was devastating.

“My heart breaks when it comes to the Jersey Shore,” she said.

Sen. Robert Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn, who also was a sponsor of the Marcellus Bridge upgrade legislation, said he’s learned that from most recent cost estimates, the project should not cost as much as previously thought. Therefore, he’s hoping the county can foot most of the money, and then maybe the state will follow through with the rest.

“Hopefully, they have come to appreciate the significance of the project,” Gordon said in a telephone interview today. “Perhaps the governor will be more amenable.”

He said recent cost estimates suggest the price range between $5 million and $8 million.

Gordon said he would also like to see the flood maps updated, which he said hasn’t been done in decades.

While the area around the bridge did not incur much flooding, Gordon said several nearby towns were hard hit, such as Little Ferry, Moonachie and Carlstadt.