Skip to main content

A Decade in the Making: New Jersey's new Wittpenn Bridge finally Opens

 

It’s taken about 10 years to reach this point, but the latest significant milestone in the replacement of the Wittpenn Bridge in northern New Jersey was announced recently as the new Wittpenn Bridge is now open to traffic.


Crossing the new Wittpenn Bridge (NJ Route 7) across the Hackensack River near Jersey City. The upper photos show the westbound crossing; the lower photos show the eastbound crossing

Both the old and new bridges span the Hackensack River near Jersey City, NJ in a heavily industrialized and heavily trafficked area in the New York metropolitan area. The bridges are located about three miles west of the Hoboken portal of the Holland Tunnel and this area has long been seen as an important crossroads point for both road & rail traffic in and around the region. The original highway bridge at this site was built in 1930 and featured a central vertical lift span along with a narrow four-lane roadway that may have been considered “modern” by Great Depression-era standards, but was vastly inadequate by the standards of today. The general substandard nature of the old bridge, plus the operational challenges of having to raise the bridge upwards of 80 times a year to accommodate marine traffic on the Hackensack (and the monumental traffic delays that would often be a result) forced New Jersey officials to consider replacing the bridge with a new span capable of better meeting the demands of both road & river traffic while providing more convenient connections on both approaches to other major highway links in the area. In fact, discussions on this subject had taken place as far back as the 1970s; repair/rehab contracts issued/executed in the early 1990s were originally meant to serve as a temporary solution until the bridge could be replaced entirely.

The new Wittpenn Bridge takes its place in the industrial setting of northern New Jersey alongside its predecessor and its neighboring railroad bridges. The second photo in this cluster shows the new flyover ramps connecting the western approach to Fish House Road in Kearny.

Ground was finally broken on the replacement bridge project in 2011 and has generally progressed at a snail’s pace for most of its life, due in large part to challenges related to the project’s location and funding. (The total price tag for the project is expected to come in at over $500 million.) The new bridge stands 70 ft above river level in the closed position, as opposed to the 35 ft above river level of its predecessor; this means that the new bridge will not have to be raised nearly as many times per year, which will generally improve the flow of traffic in the area. Its deck is also far wider than its predecessor and is wide enough to carry six travel lanes, plus full-width shoulders and dedicated pedestrian/cyclist space as part of the East Coast Greenway trail. While appearing to be very ordinary from a distance, this new bridge’s increased operational capacity and improved safety features represent a giant step in the right direction over what was in place previously.

The new bridge began carrying traffic on October 1, 2021 after nearly a decade of construction; work will continue on site for the next two years in the form of demolishing the old bridge and completing additional ramp connections on both approaches. It’s a project that has been talked about and built slowly over the last few decades, but this milestone of transferring traffic along Route 7 to a modern structure has been reached at last.

Approaching the Wittpenn Bridge along NJ Route 7 from the west (left) and from the east (right)

This bridge and its predecessor are named for Henry Otto Wittpenn, a former mayor of Jersey City, NJ (1908-1913), who also served as a State Highway Commissioner and member of the New Jersey State Highway Commission (a precursor of today’s New Jersey Department of Transportation – NJDOT). Wittpenn also ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New Jersey in 1916 while serving simultaneously as a Civilian Overseer of the Port of New York, a position he was appointed to by President Woodrow Wilson. Wittpenn’s name has been attached to the highway bridge(s) at this location ever since his death in 1931.


As the new Wittpenn Bridge (far right) begins to carry traffic, the old bridge (center) has been retired and demolition work has commenced. Immediately south of the old bridge are two railroad bridges built at approximately the same time - the Harsimus Branch Bridge and the PATH Bridge.


How to Get There:

Comments

Unknown said…
You got yo say it God Bless them Iron Workers They did a great job even if it took a long time I'm sure it wasn't their fault GOOD JOB ! Eddie Gambino

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 190; a Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

This past week I decided to take a small scale road trip on California State Route 190 from CA 99 east to the unbuilt section over the Sierra Nevada Range.  While I was in for what turned out to be a fun drive following the course of the Tule River watershed what I found researching the back story of CA 190 was one of the most complex and unusual stories of any California State Highway.  Given that I had a ton of older photos of the eastern segment of CA 190 in the Mojave Desert of Inyo County I thought it was time to put something together for the entire route. The simplified story of CA 190 is that it is a 231 mile state highway that has a 43 mile unbuilt gap in the Sierra Nevada Range.  CA 190 is an east/west State Highway running from CA 99 in Tulare County at Tipton east to CA 127 located in Death Valley Junction near the Nevada State Line in rural Inyo County.  The routing CA 190 was adopted into the State Highway system as Legislative Route 127 which was adopted in 1933 acc

Old US Route 40 on Donner Pass Road

While completing California State Route 89 between Lassen Volcanic National Park and US Route I took a detour in Truckee up the infamous Donner Pass Road. Generally I don't dispense with the history of a roadway before the route photos but the history of Donner Pass is steeped within California lore and western migration.  The first recorded Wagon Crossing of Donner Pass was back in 1844.  The infamous Donner Party saga occurred in the winter of 1846-47 in which only 48 of the 87 party members survived.  Although the Donner Party incident is largely attributed to poor planning and ill conceived Hastings Cutoff it largely led to the infamous reputation of Donner Pass. The first true road over the Sierra Nevada Range via the Donner Pass was known as the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  The Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road was completed by 1864 to assist with construction of the Central Pacific build the First Trans-Continental Railroad over Donner Pass.  The websit

California State Route 159 (former California State Route 11 and US Route 66)

California State Route 159 was a post 1964-Renumbering State Route which was designated over former segments of California State Route 11 and US Route 66.  As originally defined California State Route 159 began at Interstate 5/US Route 99 at the Golden State Freeway in Los Angeles.  California State Route 159 followed Figueroa Street, Colorado Boulevard and Linda Vista Avenue to the planned Foothill Freeway.  California State Route 159 was truncated during 1965 to existing solely on Linda Vista Avenue where it remained until being relinquished during 1989.  California State Route 159 was formally deleted from the State Highway System during 1992.   The history of California State Route 159 Prior to 1933 the Division of Highways was not actively involved in maintaining urban highways outside of occasional cooperative projects.  The responsibility for signage of US Routes in cities was thusly given to the Automobile Club of Southern California in the Southern California region.  This bei