New clues to cause of retaining wall collapse in South Jersey highway construction
The New Jersey Department of Transportation has yet to determine what caused the collapse of a retaining wall in late March on Camden County’s massive construction project to connect Highways 295 and 76 to Highway 42.
There are potential clues.
Heavy rains above high groundwater in the embankment where the wall was built, at Bellmawr, may have contributed to the March 25 incident, the state transportation commissioner said in a letter to a local lawmaker last month.
The water “appears to have compromised the condition of the subsoil,” Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti wrote Sept. 15 to MP Bill Moen (D., Camden).
An engineering company, Hardesty & Hanover, is working on an independent investigation into the collapse. Gutierrez-Scaccetti warned that the precise cause cannot be corrected until the probe is completed.
Residents of Bellmawr and other neighboring towns in Camden County, already disrupted for years by the construction of ramps and roads for the $ 900 million Direct Connect project, recently expressed safety concerns after the torrential rains in late summer and fall, including regional flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
“In conversations with the neighbors, recent weather has been fresh on their minds,” Moen said in an interview. He said it was very important that repairs to the walls and the rest of the construction be done safely, and “we are waiting for updates along the way.”
Driven by these concerns, Moen wrote to Gutierrez-Scaccetti on September 10 to request an update. The exchange was first reported by local news site 42Freeway.com, which reports on South Jersey road projects and property development.
READ MORE: South Jersey retaining wall collapse could further delay $ 900 million solution to regional traffic nightmare
Early in the morning of March 25, workers discovered that the retaining wall was sagging and some of its tiles were bulging. It was built on a 30 foot embankment, made of infill material.
The elevated road supported by the wall was not open to traffic and no one was injured. Eventually, it will form the core of I-295 southbound, carrying seven lanes to Delaware. Now, drivers must negotiate the death-defying Al-Jo curve, with its brutal merger on Route 42, before merging again onto the southbound freeway.
Direct Connect was already several years behind schedule. Construction began in the summer of 2013 and is expected to be completed in 2028. It was originally scheduled to be completed this year.