Work crews this week have begun removing an 8-foot tall anti-terrorism fence bordering the Great Egg Harbor Bridge and Drag Channel Bridge on the Garden State Parkway.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) contracted Joseph M. Sanzari, Inc. of Hackensack for $6.9 million to install the fencing on ten major bridges in late 2011. The cost to install fencing around the Great Harbor Bridge was $250,000.
The Turnpike Authority contracted Weidlinger Associates Inc. to assess the threats and vulnerabilities of the Authority’s 16 bridges to potential acts of vandalism or terrorist attacks and provide appropriate countermeasures.
When the fencing went up in late 2011, it raised the ire of motorists and local officials. In January, the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution asking the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to remove the security fencing.
The security fencing was labeled an “eyesore” by First Legislative District Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who lobbied for the fence’s removal.
The Christie Administration announced on May 18 that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority re-engineered the security fencing which allowed its removal along the one-mile stretch of the Garden State Parkway.
The announcement came as relief to local officials, who were initially told the Turnpike Authority would remove the fencing in 2013. The recent work ensures the fencing would be completely removed before the Memorial Day holiday.
“I am pleased that by working with Senator Van Drew on this issue, we have been able to move forward with a solution to address the concerns of local residents,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “The Turnpike Authority will begin work on removing the fence this Monday, with the intention of having both the fence and posts removed by Memorial Day.
The removed pieces of fencing will be repurposed by NJTA for right of way fencing on other parts of the Garden State Parkway. Approximately 500 feet of reengineered fencing will remain in select areas.
“This is a good day for South Jersey. The bridge is a gateway to both Cape May and Atlantic counties. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful vistas in the country,” Van Drew said. “While seemingly not a huge issue, placement of this fence truly bothered residents and visitors alike. Both because it aesthetically had the appearance of a security system around a penitentiary and was obviously non-functional. I am particularly happy that work removing the fence will begin before Memorial Day and the fence will be used elsewhere.”
Cape May County Freeholder Susan Sheppard, who introduced the resolution asking the state to remove the fencing, said while she’s glad the fence is coming down, she’s concerned with the cost of the fence’s removal.
The state originally had plans to remove the fencing in 2013 when the western span of the Great Egg Harbor Bridge would be rebuilt to minimize costs.
“I’m glad it’s coming down before Memorial Day, but I haven’t heard how much it will cost to take it down,” Sheppard said. “In the end we’re glad the state listened to Cape May County.”
NJTA spokesperson Tom Feeney said Joseph M. Sanzari, Inc. is removing the fencing and will bill the Turnpike Authority within the next few weeks.
“We’re paying for the labor. When the work is done, we’ll get a bill and how many hours it took and that’s when we’ll know what the price was for removing it,” Feeney said.
Feeney said the contractors has to clip the wire fencing, remove the posts and concrete foundations.
“We’re trying to get the fence down before the weekend for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we can’t do construction projects during a holiday weekend,” Feeney said.