During the annual League of Municipalities in Atlantic City, the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers (NJSME) recognizes outstanding municipal engineering projects throughout the State. This year, we’re proud that three of our projects have received this honor. This week, we introduce the NJSME’s first place Project of the Year in the Intergovernmental Cooperation category, Phillipsburg High School Roadway Improvements.
The Phillipsburg School District serves approximately 1,700 high school students from the Town of Phillipsburg as well as five other surrounding communities: Lopatcong Township, Greenwich Township, Alpha Borough, and Pohatcong Township in Warren County and Bloomsbury Borough in Hunterdon County. Due to growth, the existing high school located in Phillipsburg no longer had the capacity to accommodate the current enrollment. The Phillipsburg School District opted to build a new school in Lopatcong Township. The new high school site was a logical choice as it was not far from the original school, and it would be able to house all students within the same facility, a unique concept for the students who had been segregated in 30 trailer-classrooms for so long. But the project also prompted the Phillipsburg School District to amend its transportation program to accept additional students being bussed which was expected to increase to approximately 80% of enrollment.
The most critical physical element of making this project successful was the roadway improvements and signalization that had to be installed to control this very busy intersection that would see a high level of bus and pedestrian traffic, and the existing access roadways were insufficient in accommodating these requirements. This triggered the need for major improvements to the Belvidere Road (County Road 646) and Roseberry Street intersection including the approaches to the intersection. The improvements to both intersection approaches included widening to provide the necessary turning lanes to enable traffic to safely enter and exit the site and a completely new signalization system for the intersection.
The signal safety features include ADA curb ramps, countdown pedestrian timers, audible pushbuttons for low vision and visually impaired pedestrians, a video detection system, and an optical preemptive system that aids emergency response vehicles as they travel through the intersection. Signalization also maintains a safe and methodical traffic pattern to accommodate through-traffic in this predominantly residential corridor.
An essential element of the project was making the logistics work within a tight timeframe which could only have been done through a united inter-agency cooperative consisting of Phillipsburg, Lopatcong, the Phillipsburg School District and Warren County. Each respective entity offered a different piece of the puzzle. When the parties sat down in the Fall of 2015 to discuss how to get the improvements designed and built, the following became apparent: 1.) There was a need for an inter-local agreement between the three parties to indicate how each party would coordinate together on the project; and 2.) That Lopatcong Township should take the lead on the project since the project was located in the Township and had obtained the $300,000 grant from the NJDOT.
Although this project met hurdles, such as the moving of the school facility from one municipal jurisdiction to another, working through the complexities of multiple agencies to integrate a county road and a municipal road to work as one within the project, all obstacles were overcome. The students are able to attend class under one roof which encourages a new atmosphere of socialization that was lacking on the previously disjointed campus.