Mount Airy Road, a main route between Bernardsville and Basking Ridge, is due to be closed this week to all but local and school bus traffic as phase one begins for a lengthy project to completely overhaul the road and retaining walls just south of Olcott Square.
The construction initially was scheduled to begin on or around this Monday, but the contractor for the project said that the work would start the following Monday, Jan. 14, said Bernardsville Police Lt. Demmings Hoadley.
Meanwhile, signs already are out along Mount Airy at intersections with Prospect Street in Bernardsville and at West Oak Street in Basking Ridge warning drivers that the street will be closed to all but local traffic on or around Jan. 7.
The New Jersey American Water Co.'s project to replace the water main between Prospect Street and South Street in Bernardsville could take about two months or a little more, Tricia Smith, principal highway engineer for Somerset County, said on Friday afternoon.
The water main that is 80 to 90 years old, and the water company is replacing it before the start of a major county project that will include the resurfacing of the road, replacement and repositioning of crumbling concrete retaining walls and more, said borough officials, including Bernardsville's public works manager, John Macdowell.
Smith said the $5 million project, to be funded by Somerset County and state transportation funds if available, also will include new storm drainage, new curbing and new sidewalks.
There is little room to walk alongside some sections of the road with the walls at their current location, Macdowell said. Mayor Lee Honecker said the new walls will be placed back further into the right-of-way.
Macdowell said the surface of the new walls has not yet been chosen, but it may have a covering that looks like a rock wall.
School buses will be able to navigate the road while the first phase of construction is underway, Schools Superintendent Peter Miller said last Friday. However, officials said that while the road will remain open to residents and emergency vehicles that need access, it will be closed to through traffic.
Macdowell said that a detour route has been set up to divert drivers from Pill Hill Road at the intersection with Mount Airy to Meeker Road, and then north onto Route 202 into the center of Bernardsville. Truck drivers would be directed on a longer route along Whitenack Road to Route 202.
Although detours and the road closure will affect Basking Ridge, Bernards Township Engineer Tom Timko said none of the construction will take place in the township.
Macdowell said the county has the details of the timeline for the next phases of the construction, which he said also will involve road closures.
Smith said that the bulk of the work on Mount Airy Road could begin in the second half of 2013, either the summer or fall, or possibly the start of next year, depending on when acceptable bids are received and contracts awarded.