This 2001 photo shows the Wittpenn Bridge (NJ 7) across the Hackensack River. The NJDOT expects to replace the existing lift span with a modern drawbridge by 2011. (Photo by Charles Stanton.)
LINKING THE PASSAIC VALLEY WITH JERSEY CITY: Opened in 1930, the Wittpenn Bridge, which was named after H. Otto Wittpenn (the mayor of Jersey City from 1908 to 1913), crosses the Hackensack River between Jersey City and Kearny. Part of NJ 7 (and originally multiplexed with NJ 10), the four-lane lift span also connects I-280 with the Holland Tunnel (I-78).
Beginning just west of the Charlotte Circle (where NJ 7 intersects US 1 and US 9) in Jersey City, the 2,169-foot-long bridge crosses the Hackensack River at 35 feet over mean high water. When the 83-foot-long vertical-lift span is raised between the bridge's 140-foot-tall towers, a 100-foot clearance is provided for ships. The steel superstructure was constructed atop piers made of reinforced concrete. The roadway deck, which accommodates four 10-foot-wide lanes, was also constructed of reinforced concrete.
To accommodate growing traffic demands (and a possible eastern extension of I-280), the New Jersey State Highway Department rehabilitated the Wittpenn Bridge in 1957.
According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the Wittpenn Bridge now handles approximately 20,000 vehicles per day (AADT). Despite its narrow lanes, the bridge is used as a truck alternative for the nearby Pulaski Skyway (US 1-US 9). Moreover, poor roadway geometry (specifically, the sharp curve between the bridge and the Charlotte Circle) and the lack of a median barrier have contributed to many accidents on the bridge over the years.
A NEW BRIDGE FOR THE 21st CENTURY: With the bridge now reaching the end of its useful life, and with traffic counts continuing to grow, the NJDOT plans to replace the Wittpenn Bridge with a new four-lane drawbridge. The new span is expected to have four 12-foot-wide lanes, 10-foot-wide shoulders and a concrete ("Jersey") median barrier. In the closed position, the drawbridge will have a clearance of 70 feet above mean high water. New approaches are also expected to be an integral part of the design. Once the new bridge is completed, the old bridge is expected to be demolished.
Part of the comprehensive "Portway International Intermodal Corridor" project, the new $372 million Wittpenn Bridge is scheduled for completion in 2011. The Wittpenn Bridge replacement project has taken on greater importance in recent years because of an increase in fatal accidents along the existing bridge and its approaches.
In the meantime, the NJDOT has implemented stopgap safety measures, including installing new pavement markings and reducing the speed limit to 35 MPH. In 2001, the NJDOT replaced the outdated Charlotte Circle with a modern signaled intersection.
Type of bridge: Construction started: Opened to traffic: Length of main lift span: Total length of bridge and viaduct approaches: Width of bridge: Number of traffic lanes: Clearance over mean high water (closed position): Clearance over mean high water (open position): Height of towers: Structural material: Pier material: Deck material: Cost of original structure:
SOURCES: "FAI 105 Interstate Highway Corridor: Recommendation Report," New Jersey State Highway Department (1957); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Parley Discusses Route 7 Crash Site Improvements" by Jeff Theodore, The Jersey Journal (10/13/2000); "Deadly Bridge" by Jonathan Miller, The Jersey City Reporter (10/15/2000); "Lower Route 7 Speed" by Jason Fink, The Jersey Journal (1/05/2001); Hudson Alliance for Rational Transportation; New Jersey Department of Transportation; Phil Case; Dan Moraseski; Charles Stanton.
NJ 7 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.