Monday, July 9, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: "What is happening with Washington St. ?!?!?!"

Official release:

Dear friends and neighbors:
The #1 question I get from members of our community and visitors is something along the lines of “When is Washington St. going to be done????.”  
On June 22nd, I was cautiously optimistic when Mayor Bhalla stated in a release as his top accomplishment:  “(1) paving and rehabilitating Washington Street from Observer Highway to 9th Street by mid-July...”  But that optimism has waned considerably as we look at the current state of the project.   
On Friday I asked the Administration to provide a full update on the project, including a plan on what is necessary to get the project completed quickly and with the least disruption so that our community and businesses can finally move forward.  As I think you all agree, this project has been devastating to the potential successes of our community, in particular to our local businesses – many of whom have shuttered their doors permanently.  I want all options to be considered.  
The Infrastructure Subcommittee which I Chair is meeting tomorrow morning where we will be discussing this.  Additionally, although originally posited by the City as a closed session to discuss with the entire City Council, I asked that the project update be held during the public portion of Wednesday's City Council meeting to provide transparency to our entire community.  T&M, our engineering consultant, will be there as well to answer questions so please tune in to hopefully find out what our path to completion will be.  
  • Click HERE to watch it live (starts at 7pm Wednesday and is the first thing on the agenda).  It will also be streamed live on Facebook (details to follow).
At the meeting, the City Council will vote on whether to approve extending the contractual timeframe for the project by 29 days and two change orders totaling over $.5 million – this brings the total costs to approximately $21 million (contractor and consultant).  
A reminder of some of the salient aspects concerning the project:
  • City Council approved the project in February 2016.
  • The extensive $19.6 million project included below grade water and electrical improvements, full milling and repaving, and many safety features including new traffic lights, class II bike lanes and curb bump-outs.
  • Construction began in January 2017 and was contractually planned to be completed by August 2018.  We are only completed to 4th street currently.
  • Some safety concerns and unanticipated obstacles relating to underground findings have added delays.
  • Underground Utilities, the contractor performing the work, is working typically one shift only – 730am -330pm (approx.) although the City Council approved and encouraged extended hours to expedite timing.
As I have mentioned in a previous update, the City recently hired an Engineer and Construction Manager for the first time, resources added specifically to bring necessary in-house technical and project management experience that the City has sorely lacked and in particular on the Washington St. Redesign Project.  I had advocated continuously for these hires since I was elected.  I learned last week that these two new hires have not yet been engaged in the Washington St. project which is the single largest public works project Hoboken has ever faced and is significantly behind and over budget already.  I have an email into Mayor Bhalla and his staff questioning why this is the case, but as of this writing, I have not yet heard.  I am hopeful that these important team members will soon be an active part of getting this project done.
So I hope you will either attend in person or watch online the City Council meeting on Wednesday .  I am separately working on other updates that will be sent out shortly covering such topics as Union Dry Dock, Steven’s Zoning Changes, and Weehawken Cove boats, among others.  So be on the lookout!
As always, if you have any questions or want to discuss this or anything else, please feel free to call me at 201/208-1674. 
TiffanieFisher
Hoboken City Council, 2nd Ward
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