Deep inside a Newark warehouse, the components of the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority’s (BRSA) wind turbine sit idle.
While the fate of the 386-foot-tall industrial wind turbine is the subject of a court battle, county and municipal officials are still unsure about one major piece of the turbine puzzle: how to transport 30 tons of material to the BRSA facility in Union Beach safely and without leaving damaged roads, bridges and personal property in its wake.
“The county has to ensure that the transport of these various components will not have a negative impact on the county’s transportation assets, especially our roadways and our bridges,” Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore said in a Dec. 2 interview. Before the county can approve the transport of the turbine parts to Union Beach, a route must be chosen and finalized and then approved by all municipalities it passes through, Ettore said.
“We have made local approval by each of the municipalities a requirement of our permit,” he said.
“That’s to ensure that if the transport will somehow affect the municipalities’ assets, that they and their engineers will have the opportunity to ensure that our assets will not be damaged.”
In examining any proposed route from an applicant, the county takes a number of things into consideration.
“These are not only overweight loads, but geometrically oversized,” Ettore said.
“We require that [the BRSA’s] licensed professional give us a report of the pre-existing conditions that deals with the ability and condition of the structure that carries the load and the horizontal geometry to negotiate it,” he said.
For example, Ettore said the turbine parts would have a limited turning radius because of their size. As such, an engineer needs to make sure that any tight turns won’t derail the transportation process.
“We don’t want to get three-quarters of the way into the route and have a piece of equipment be hung up and not able to conclude its route. We want assurances that’s not going to happen, and we need that done up front,” Ettore said.
Bridges often have to be specially fitted for the transport of an overweight load, like the turbine parts. The county can take special measures to secure a bridge, such as “dunnage,” which would help evenly distribute the load with timber blocking or steel plates,” Ettore said.
“There are special measures that can be taken for an oversized weight, but there’s also a limit as to how much that bridge can take. Sometimes, even with those special measures, you cannot allow it.
“The two current routes that are being proposed have bridges which have been rated, and we’re in the process of taking a look at whether or not we can allow those to occur,” Ettore said.
Selecting a route has been an ongoing process in and of itself.
Tim Ryan, a county engineer on the turbine project, said the turbine would have to come along two different routes.
The 118-foot-long blades can be transported via Route 35 and Route 36 before entering Union Beach, he said.
However, the tower and nacelle of the turbine cannot make clearance underneath certain overpasses on Route 35.
“If they could have gone under [a Route 35 overpass], if they could have made that clearance, all this would have been out of the picture,” Ryan said on Dec. 2.
He said the current proposal calls for those parts to travel to Union Beach via Route 79, a state road, through Marlboro, Matawan and Keyport before the turbine components enter Route 36.
However, those towns would need to approve the transportation of the turbine before the county gives the BRSAits stamp of approval.
The municipalities’ approval is nowhere near guaranteed.
Earlier this year, both Matawan and Holmdel passed resolutions formally opposing the construction of the turbine. Keyport and Hazlet, where the turbine parts would pass through on their way to Union Beach, adopted similar resolutions in 2010. The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a resolution opposing construction of the turbine in July 2010.
“We’re concerned about the structural integrity of the roads and the infrastructure below them. Our sewer lines and water lines and things like that are sensitive to pressure from above,” said Brian Valentino, Hazlet Township administrator, on Dec. 1.
“The other concern is for the safety of pedestrians and personal property. The streets I’ve heard it’s going to go down [Florence Avenue] are clearly not streets that were designed to do this. At some points, the turning radius of the truck actually exceeds the size of the road.
“At some points, the wheels might be on the road while the cargo itself would be standing on jughandles, grass, medians and people’s property,” he said.
Matawan officials have expressed similar concerns about their infrastructure in the wake of the turbine transport, drafting a letter to the county asking for assurance that it wouldn’t be jeopardized.
“We are asking the county engineer and the roads and bridges department to verify the weight of the trucks and that the bridges and the roads can be supported,” Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato said on Oct. 18.
“The water and sewer lines can crack with the weight.”
At its Nov. 22 meeting, the Keyport Borough Council approved a “checklist” of items that, if the turbine were to come through Keyport, would require recording the entire process, inspections, a list of all signs to be temporarily removed, and notification of any personal property that could be infringed upon.
Additionally, Ettore said the BRSA would have to take up a $2 million maintenance bond insuring the roads and the infrastructure below them.
The county engineers stressed that nothing was set in stone and that the final route of the turbine is yet to be selected, let alone approved by the local municipalities.
“We’ve had four or five different [proposed] routes since [the project’s] inception. There currently is a route, but I’m not sure if it will end up being a final route,” Ettore said.
“It’s an ongoing process, and it’s been changed numerous times.”
The construction of the turbine is still being debated in court between the borough of Union Beach and the BRSA. Court documents note that oral arguments can be heard as soon as January.