Reconnecting New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy
New Jersey Department of Transportation / Ocean County, New Jersey
Superstorm Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in US history, struck the coast of New Jersey on October 29, 2012. Sandy inflicted more damage than any storm in the state’s recorded history.
The Barnegat Peninsula, which separates the Atlantic Ocean from Barnegat Bay in Ocean County and consists of 9 municipalities, was especially hard hit. In Mantoloking Borough, the storm surge cut through the peninsula, causing three significant breaches of New Jersey Route 35, the peninsula’s principal highway.
The worst damage occurred at the intersection of Route 35 and County Road 528 (Herbert Street) where approximately 500 feet of Route 35 and 550 feet of Herbert Street were completely washed away, along with critical lifeline utilities, including gas, water, power, and telecommunications. The damage to private property, including homes, automobiles, and boats was extensive.
A second breach just north of the main breach destroyed approximately 200 feet of Route 35. A third breach, 0.75 miles north of Herbert Street at the intersection of Route 35 and Lyman Street, washed away 100 feet of Route 35 as well as 300 feet of Lyman Street from Route 35 to Barnegat Bay. In addition, hundreds of sinkholes and washouts were created along the state highway system and local roads throughout the peninsula.
The severe and widespread damage required tremendous engineering and construction resources. The project was complicated by the need to coordinate this large construction workforce within a relatively small area with limited access points and strict security requirements. Adding to the difficulties of the reconstruction effort was the presence of other agencies involved in separate reconstruction efforts including the US Army Corps of Engineers (beach restoration), utility companies (replacement of damaged facilities), etc.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) initiated an emergency response operation focused on reconnecting the state highway while reestablishing lifeline utilities. The project had two primary goals:
- Reestablish access along the length of Route 35 to allow emergency services and construction equipment to access all areas of the peninsula. This was accomplished within a few days after the storm by means of temporary bypass roads at the three breach areas.
- Reconstruct the storm damaged areas of Route 35, including more than 80 sinkholes in over 9 miles of highway by December 15, 2012; and complete the remainder of the work (reconstruction of Herbert Street) by December 24, 2012.
Shortly after the storm, Mott MacDonald was on-site and working with NJDOT personnel to develop a plan of action for the repairs. Our personnel spread out to assess the damage and develop repair plans for the two northernmost breaches along with the numerous sinkholes along the rest of Route 35, which stretched from Seaside Heights north to Point Pleasant Beach.
After temporary construction access was constructed around the major breach areas, all utilities and roadwork within the damaged Route 35 Right of Way were reconstructed. Geotextile-reinforced soil fill was used to replace the washed-out roadway at the two northern breaches. The temporary stone access roads at these breaches, constructed on the ocean side of Route 35, were left in place to protect the roadway embankments from future storm damage. Readily available material, including riprap and steel sheet piling, was used to reduce lead times and accelerate construction for the various repairs.
Elsewhere on the peninsula, sinkhole repairs included clearing debris, removing undermined pavement, placing stone and aggregate to reestablish a proper pavement subbase, reconstructing the pavement box and adjacent curbs, and replacing highway storm drainage facilities and utilities along Route 35.
Our personnel remained on-site for the duration of the project to provide engineering support and construction inspection. We led daily meetings between the NJDOT, the three main contractors on the site, utility companies, law enforcement and local officials to coordinate the reconstruction efforts, provide outreach to the various groups at the site, and coordinate access for resident re-entry into the damaged areas.
The rapid and efficient reconstruction of Route 35 helped facilitate the reentry of local residents back to their homes to assess storm damage, ensure that residents had access to food, clean water, and medical attention and restart local businesses activity during this critical period.
Through a coordinated effort between NJDOT, Mott MacDonald, other consultants, several contractors, local municipalities and utility companies, Route 35 was ready to be reopened just 7 weeks after the storm, on December 14, 2012. Reconstruction of Herbert Street was finished one week later, with the emergency reconstruction being substantially completed on December 21, 2012.
NJDOT also requested that Mott MacDonald provide similar assistance for damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to NJ Route 36 in Sea Bright in Monmouth County.
In a letter, NJDOT’s Assistant Commissioner of Operations wrote, “I want to take this opportunity to let you know how much I appreciate all of the hard work and time your company has invested in the clean up and repair activities associated with Hurricane Sandy.” He continued, “The work done by the people involved in this operation has earned the department accolades from the counties, municipalities and even the news media.”