Cranbury Township is set to begin an extensive rehabilitation project on the Brainerd Lake dam and bridge in hopes of reducing the ongoing impact from flooding.
While the project will not completely solve flooding issues from the lake, the work is expected to mitigate some of the problems caused by the aging structure, which is over 100 years old.
"Unlike typical new construction made of iron and concrete, the Cranbury dam is an old Earth and wood structure," said Township Committeeman David Cook. "We got to a point where we had to address some of the age issues, so that's what we're doing now. We're working with the county to retrofit the bridge, roadway, and spillway to allow more water to pass from the east side underneath the bridge to the west side."
The project includes increasing the spillway from about 40 feet to 100 feet, removal of the concrete beach, replacing the upstream wall and cap, and laying concrete blocks covered in soil to help with erosion problems.
Last year, Brainerd Lake was drained after a “significant” amount of water was found seeping through the dam and around the spillway. The township also experienced extensive damage from flooding during Hurricane Irene.
"Flooding seems to be a more frequent occurrence, but not every one results in the whole town flooding out," Cook said. "The project will address the assumption that this type of weather will happen more frequently and add more volume to the lake. By lowering the road bed by three or four inches, that will allow flood level water to begin breaching over the top sooner, moving more water faster and at an earlier stage."
The cost of the approximately $3 million project will be split between Middlesex County and the township. Cook said the township expects to go out to bid on the plan within a few weeks, with work anticipated to begin in May. Brainerd Lake will remain drained until the project is complete.
"Normally with a project like this I'd say it would take at least a year to finish, but we're probably going to be in the 9-month range from beginning to end," he said.
While the work could result in the complete closure of the bridge sporadically, Cook said the road will rarely, if ever, be closed 100 percent as alternate lanes will be open to allow traffic to pass.
Residents had an opportunity to learn more about the project on Monday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. during a meeting in Town Hall to discuss the improvements.
"They'll see what we're trying to achieve with the new construction," Cook said. "We're trying to keep the bridge and dam as close to the period as it is now, so we want to keep the character intact. They'll also see some ideas for what the bridge will look like after the project is finished."
Several commenters on the East Windsor Facebook page said that the bridge and dam improvements are a necessity. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!