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County: Hubbard Avenue Wounds Heal

The waiting for construction materials to be delivered and constant rains and dampness hampered road opening slated for Oct. 1.

What residents have seen as a long, angst-laden road to recovery is a trip officials are now saying will be over within hours.

Friday is now the targeted date for the storm-battered street, that suffered the ills of Hurricane Irene's wrath, to be reopened, according to two Monmouth County officials. 

"Hubbard Avenue should be open again by this Friday, Oct. 7," Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore said Wednesday afternoon of the ongoing, more than $491,000 emergency repairs to the county road.

Freeholder John Curley, the county board's liaison to roads, public works, and engineering, echoed Ettore's predictions.

"We'll get this culvert open by Friday," said Curley who lives less than a mile away from the sinkhole that ultimately prompted the road's shutdown on Aug. 28.

The wait time for steel sheeting pilings to be delivered to the construction site caused one delay. The steel will be installed to permanently replace Shadow Lake's damaged timber retaining wall, Ettore said.

Constant rain and dampness since late September has kept prevented compacting of the soil under the roadway surface, he added.

With the originally scheduled re-opening date of Oct. 1 having passed without any of the barricades removed at either end of the road, both Ettore and Curley said they appreciate the frustration of nearby residents and commuters who depend on .

Mindful of the urgency to get the two-lane road back in traversing order, the county engineering department asked the steel manufacturer to expedite its order for the pilings, Ettore said.

The steel, which usually takes six to eight weeks to be delivered, he explained, arrived within two weeks of placing the order.

"That's a very fast turn-around," Ettore said. "But we're still a week behind where we had hoped to be."

"We've also had several days of rain," he continued. "That hurt our ability to impact the soil in the earthen dam. The soil was too wet to properly compact."

Residents and commuters were further driven to the brink when water main construction closed a portion of nearby Middletown-Lincroft Road last week and earlier this week. Motorists have been using Middletown-Lincroft Road, also a county road, as an alternative to Hubbard Avenue.

New Jersey American Water Company has been replacing water mains along Middletown-Lincroft Road, As of last week, the company had been focused on a stretch between the intersection at Dwight and Nut Swamp roads  extending south to Four Winds Drive, Ettore explained.

Because asphalt must be rolled out before temperatures drop below freezing, the clock is ticking for the contractor is pave the final asphalt surface over an existing layer, he added. Resurfacing the road usually takes about two days.

Even with the Hubbard Avenue shutdown, paving Middletown-Lincroft remained a priority for this week.

"It might not have seemed like an optimal time," Ettore said. "But we felt it was important to get it done now."

Curley also pushed to ramp up the Middletown-Lincroft Road re-paving in light of the slowdown of Hubbard Avenue reconstruction. Both projects have been challenged by Mother Nature, he noted.

"[The contractor] has been making strides, but the weather has been a tremendous hinderance when they're trying to lay down blacktop," he said.

Those roadway projects mixed with ongoing building and sidewalk construction along Bridge Avenue and other major thoroughfares across the the Navesink River in Red Bank has created gridlock in a tightly populated region.

"It's extremely difficult for everyone on both the Middletown and Red Bank sides," Curley said. "We have a such huge population here."

The Middletown-Lincroft Road repairs did not escape the attention of Middletown Township officials either according to Assistant Township Administrator James Vannest.

"There were a couple of closures out there," he confirmed. "The pavement was torn up after the [water main] repairs."

Sambol Construction, Inc., of Toms River, is the county's contractor for both road construction projects in Middletown, Ettore said. He pegged the Hubbard Road repairs at $491,215 to date.

Because the sinkhole in Hubbard Avenue's southbound lane and related damage resulted from Hurricane Irene's driving rains and wind, the county freeholders will apply for FEMA grants to cover the tab, both Ettore and Curley said.

"It's storm-related," Curley said. "I'm sure FEMA will come through."

The metal guardrail along Hubbard Avenue's southbound lane, largely dented and washed out when the spillway overflowed is also being replaced by Sambol, Ettore said.

"Some sections of it are not re-usuable," he said. "The sections that are reusable will remain in place."

A sidewalk paralleling Hubbard Avenue's northbound lane will remain as is, as it was not damaged, Ettore said.

That sidewalk provides walking access from children in the township's River Plaza section to reach the neighborhood public elementary school.

However, those pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students are now being bused via Normandy Road to the while the road remains closed.

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