NEWARK, NJ-Following by a day Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement the state will push to rebuild a more storm-resistant highway along the shore, PSE&G proposed today to spend $3.9 billion over the next decade to do the same with electric and gas infrastructure.
The Newark-based utility said it asked for initial approval of $2.6 billion from the Board of Public Utilities to cover the first five years of upgrades. For the second five years, it will seek an additional $1.3 billion.
The BPU has power to approve or reject the projects, but the funds come from ratepayers. PSE&G said that the lowered price of natural gas means the impact on rates would be mitigated.
In the aftermath of the Oct. 29 superstorm Sandy, most of PSE&G electric customers – 2 million out of 2.2 million- lost power. Swiitching and substations, poles and electrical equipment suffered damage in the violent storm, as well as falling trees downing wires over a widespread area.
“PSE&G is responding to Sandy with a program that looks to the future with investments that would better protect homes and businesses when the next storm hits, while also improving day-to-day reliability,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and chief operating officer, in a news announcement.
On Tuesday, when Christie announced an agressive plan to rebuild Route 35, he said the issue of rebuilding infrastructure is very like the issue facing individual home and business owners hit by the storm.
“The scope of the damage that was left, left us with a choice that mirrors that of so many of our residents and business,” Christie said. “Build back just to where we were, or rebuild better and stronger by accelerating our long term plans for Route 35 in this area. I had a decision to make and I’ve made it: Rebuild better and rebuild now.”
Route 35 will be completely rebuilt from Point Pleasant Beach to South Seaside Park in Berkeley with federal disaster aid funding, Christie said. Bids will go out possibly as soon as next month on the $215 million project and work will proceed through this summer season and the next.
A new and more effective drainage system with pumping stations is to be installed as part of the rebuilding of a 12.5-mile stretch of the shoreline corridor, parts of which were destroyed by superstorm Sandy last Oct. 29.
The entire project should be finished by summer 2015, according to the governor. He appeared at a press conference with Ocean County officials at the Lavallette Fire Company building just off Route 35.
Christie administration officials have said they will strive to minimize disruption this summer. However, Christie emphasized the urgent need to forge ahead with rebuilding roads in the area.
The new highway will be built 24 inches thick – three times as thick as the current road, with better accomodations for pedestrians and bikers. The materials and design ensure that repair and upkeep costs will be minimized in the future, Christie said.
The state road is a primary north-south route along the Barnegat Peninsula in Ocean County, going from Point Pleasant Beach to the entrance of Island Beach State Park.
Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said the rebuilding was planned before the hurricane hit, but it was to be a six-year effort. “The governor said, ‘I want it done by the summer of 2015,’ and you know how the governor is, so I’ll get it done,” he said Tuesday.
The state DOT has divided the project into three sections. Bids on the nothernmost section – a two-lane stretch from the border between Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head to the border between Mantoloking and Brick - will likely go out next month, and the other two sections will go to bid in July.