House approves Smith’s $7 million boost for essential County Rd. 539 overpass through Jt. Base MDL

July 2, 2021

Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) proposal for the much-needed County Road 539 (CR 539) overpass project was approved by the full House of Representatives today as part of a larger roads and infrastructure package. Included within the transportation bill was $8 million—of which Smith secured $7 million—of federal funding to build the overpass on 539, which goes through the center of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL) in Ocean County.

The 539 project––Smith’s top priority for inclusion in the Member Designated Projects section of the bill––would provide faster and safer routes for New Jersey drivers and military personnel to navigate CR 539 and NJ Route 70 and address significant road hazards. The heavily traveled roadways serve as critical shore-point connectors to and from federal highways on the western side of New Jersey.

“This important project will greatly reduce congestion on County Road 537 and Route 70 and enhance the safety of commuters by keeping military vehicles off these major roadways, which currently serve as common routes for travel across the base,” said Smith, who has fought tirelessly for federal funds for the project since it was first identified by JB-MDL leadership.

The $7 million secured by Smith from the federal government would represent an immense portion of the funds required by Ocean County—the project’s sponsor—to build the overpass, which is expected to cost about $10 million in total.

Smith, who represents the majority of JB-MDL, said the new overpass would allow civilian traffic to ride above CR 539, while large military tactical vehicles would be able to travel more safely and efficiently below. Smith was relentless in coordinating efforts between Ocean County officials, JB-MDL leadership, and North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) officials to provide materials necessary to convince the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the significance of the proposal.

Smith also secured funding for seven additional projects across Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties and was successful in including all of his projects in the bill. A list of each project and supporting documents can be found here.

Other proposals by Smith that passed the House include:

The Mercer County Bus Purchase project to provide for the purchase of buses and bus equipment for the County’s Transportation Resources to Aid the Disadvantaged and Elderly (TRADE) program, which provides non-emergency transportation to residents of Mercer County who are elderly and those with disabilities.

The Improvement of Koleda Park in Middletown Township project to help convert a vacant lot into useful community space;

The Point Pleasant Beach Channel Drive ADA Compliance Upgrade and Surface Revitalization project to enhance safety and ADA accessibility in a five-block shopping and business district by removing and replacing curbing and sidewalks;

The Freehold Borough Parking Improvement project to increase the existing 54 parking spaces to 67 spaces, restoring the heavily used parking lot, while also providing additional green space and reducing stormwater runoff;

The Route 35 Bridge Over the North Branch of Wreck Pond replacement project which will result in a safer and more resilient byway;

The Route 33 Bridge Over the Millstone River replacement project to replace a dangerous structure with a safer and more sound thoroughfare; and

The Mercer County Roadway Safety Improvements project to help fund several necessary roadway improvements in Mercer County, including the installation of safety reflective pavement markings, reflective object markers, reflective roadway delineators, guide rail and other treatments.