On September 30, 2008 the NJDOT opened the new Sussex County Bridge K-09 carrying Sparta-Stanhope Road (CR-605) over the historic Lackawanna (Railroad) Cutoff on the Stanhope Hopatcong border, thereby allowing the adjacent 97 year old County Bridge K-07 to be retired from active service.
The original Bridge K-07 was built in 1911 as one of 73 bridges and culverts required as part of the construction for the 28 mile long $11 million dollar Lackawanna (Railroad) Cutoff which began in 1908. This historic project created a new high speed shortcut route for the Lackawanna Railroad across western New Jersey, saving a minimum of twenty minutes for passenger trains and an hour for freight trains traversing through the Delaware Water Gap. With the advent of the interstate highway system, rail traffic diminished until finally the tracks on the Lackawanna Cutoff were eventually torn up in 1984.
The historic Bridge K-07 was constructed as a cast-in-place concrete arch with open window balustrade railings. Given that the bridge was not aligned with the Sparta-Stanhope Road and its 23-ft width could only accommodate one lane of traffic, crossing this narrow old bridge on the "S" curved roadway with the poor visibility could be challenging.
After many years of service portions of the old concrete arch bridge deteriorated causing it to be downgraded under the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) to a "Structurally Deficient" rating and in 2007 NJDOT awarded a $6.7 million contract for the construction of an adjacent replacement Bridge K-09.
Under a prior agreement with the NJ State Historic Preservation Office, the new Bridge K-09 had been designed as a concrete arch with faux window balustrade railings to blend in with the old Bridge K-07 over the historic Lackawanna Cutoff. The new bridge was designed with two lanes and aligned with skewed Sparta-Stanhope Road to correct the undesirable roadway "S" curve and associated poor visibility across the old narrow bridge. As a result of this re-configured alignment, the new Bridge K-09 is 200 ft wide, making it look more like a tunnel than a bridge.
Once traffic was permanently shifted to the new bridge on September 30, 2008, the old Bridge K-07 was rehabilitated with extensive concrete repair work. Subsequently, the structure was treated with a special concrete stain to restore its former grandeur before being placed back in service for recreational use only.
It appears history may have a way of repeating itself as NJDOT recently announced that it was planning a $36.6 million project to restore commuter passenger rail service on the eastern portion of the Lackawanna (Railroad) Cutoff by reconstructing the high speed railroad track bed passing below Bridges K-07 and K-09 by the year 2011.
Walter H. Cramp, P.E.
Supervising Engineer, Bridges
Sussex County Division of Engineering
November 25, 2008