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DOT delays dismantling of one-lane Sparta span

Star Ledger

The state Department of Transportation agreed yesterday to hold off dismantling a historic one-lane bridge in Sparta until it gets in writing that the federal government agreed only a portion need be preserved, an attorney for a homeowners association said.

Stuart Lieberman, who represents the Lake Grinnell Association, said U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler did not find the homeowners group had met the burden for getting an injunction to stop the DOT from removing the West Mountain Road bridge, which is eligible to be on the state and national registries of historic places.

But an attorney general representing the DOT acknowledged the agency did not have any written endorsement of its plan from the federal Highway Administration, which is financing the 1911 bridge’s replacement with a two-lane structure, Lieberman said. The DOT will delay the project until it gets that okay, expected by the end of the week, Lieberman said.

Last week, a state appellate panel refused to order the DOT to hold off on the work. The Lake Grinnell Association claims the DOT’s plan to use only a small portion of the bridge for a pedestrian crossing at Stillwater Park violates a preservation compact.

The homeowners group claims the state and Stillwater are required to keep the stone-and-timber bridge mostly as is when it is reconstructed at Pond Brook Park.

The DOT and Stillwater say that is impossible, and was never the intention of the preservation covenant.

Plans call for the footbridge, which will go over a stream and provide the sole access to the park from its parking area, to be 8 feet wide.

The West Mountain Road bridge has been closed to traffic since an oversized truck damaged the guardrails in 2002.