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Turnpike Connector bridge reopens Thursday night

TRENTON — The connector bridge between the New Jersey Turnpike and Pennsylvania Turnpike will reopen late Thursday night, several weeks ahead of schedule.

The Route 276 bridge was closed suddenly in January when a large fracture was discovered in a steel truss underneath a deck on the Pennsylvania side, forcing 42,000 commuters to find another way over the river.

Workers had been building eight 80-foot support towers to bear the bridge’s weight when they jack it up so the permanent repair can be made and tested. A network of 50 sensors will help determine if there is other damage.

Earlier this week, heavy duty trucks were loaded down with up to 40 tons of materials to test how the bridge was handling various weight loads.

The bridge was not expected to reopen until mid-April at the earliest. However, according to New Jersey Turnpike spokesman Thomas Feeney, work round-the-clock and good helped to accelerate the schedule.

“Extensive testing has been done after the repair was made and everything is in very good shape so there was no need to keep it closed any longer.”

The NJ Turnpike will also fully reopen including the exit for Route 130 in Florence.

Drivers will not notice a difference in the road or the bridge as the steel truss was below the driving surface. “There will be no restrictions on weight,” Feeney said.

“We were able to bring in some of the very best minds in the field to work with the staffs of our agencies to evaluate the fracture and then design and execute the repair,” New Jersey Turnpike Authority Executive Director Joseph W. Mrozek said.

“Given the number of experts who have inspected, tested and studied it over the last 49 days, it’s safe to say this bridge is perhaps the most scrutinized structure in the nation and maybe the world,” PA Turnpike Chief Engineer Brad Heigel said. “We have a high level of confidence on both shores of the river regarding the reliability of our repair and the safety of the bridge for travelers and for nearby residents.”

New Jersey Fast Traffic’s Bob Williams said the opening will bring “much needed relief for motorists in that busy traffic corridor. Traffic was definitely heavier on the alternates while the bridge was closed especially on I-195.”

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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