ROXBURY TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – Berkshire Valley Road reopened Thursday, although a new traffic pattern will be in place following a truck accident on Tuesday that significantly damaged a railroad overpass and forced closure of the road from Hercules Road to North Dell Avenue in Kenvil.
Engineers initially estimated the road would need to be closed for up to a month while repair work is conducted on the 120-year-old Chester Branch Railroad trestle. However, since removing a large truck that slammed into the trestle on Tuesday, engineers and contractors have been able to remove the debris and erect enough temporary bracing to allow for one lane of traffic to move under the bridge.
Motorists traveling under the trestle will now alternate use of one lane, with the traffic controlled by electronic signals, as repairs continue to be made to the trestle. Freight train service over the span will remain suspended as the repair work continues.
Berkshire Valley Road is a major route for commercial trucking, stretching from Route 46 in Kenvil to North Dell Avenue. However, truck traffic is limited by the fact that passing trucks cannot be higher than 11 feet, 5 inches because of the trestle. The clearance limit is noted on large signs for truckers to observe.
The trestle, located in the Kenvil section of Roxbury Township near the intersection of North Dell Avenue and Berkshire Valley Road, was initially erected in the late 19th Century to allow the railroad line to pass over a portion of the Morris Canal. The canal was eventually abandoned, the area filled in and Berkshire Valley Road took its place.
Morris County maintains the railroad trestle as part of the Chester Branch Railroad system, which The Dover Rockaway River Railroad uses for freight deliveries. The trail line extends westward into Mount Olive Township. The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority began a study in February designed to elevate the trestle.
While the project is still years from being finalized, the goal is to improve and maintain the freight rail service and to improve the traffic pattern along Berkshire Valley Road and North Dell Avenue.
The Chester Branch is one of three rail lines owned by Morris County that serves a wide range of industrial operations. The rail bridge damaged by today’s accident is located near the former Hercules Powder Plant, a 900-acre site that is one of the largest vacant industrial properties in the region. There also are industrial properties on the east side of Berkshire Valley Road and along the east side of the Chester Branch that hold significant potential for new rail-served industrial development.
Improving the constraints on truck traffic of Berkshire Valley Road has the potential to facilitate industrial and economic growth, allow commercial trucks to avoid driving through residential areas and improve the quality of life in Roxbury Township, according to the NJTPA study.