For three decades, motorists in an area of Newark, New Jersey, have dreaded rain events. Forced to grow accustomed to stormwater flooding at intersections and underpasses, drivers regularly battled traffic jams, safety advisories and property damage even during moderate rainfall. In severe instances, some cars were even left stranded with occupants in need of rescue.
Determined to find a solution that protected drivers, residents and businesses in the affected area, the city of Newark partnered with CDM Smith to upgrade and improve drainage facilities and provide water quality benefits leading to a safer and cleaner community.
We will gain a safer, cleaner and stronger South Ward from this project.
Newark is the most populous city in the state of New Jersey and relies on aging infrastructure to support its role as an air, road, rail and marine transportation hub. So when the Queen Ditch drainage facilities in the city’s South Ward could no longer effectively handle stormwater, the city contracted CDM Smith to plan, design and oversee the implementation of a solution.
Following project completion in August 2018, Mayor of Newark Ras J. Baraka noted, “For nearly three decades, heavy rain has turned these portions of Frelinghuysen and Meeker Avenues into lakes, creating safety and health hazards for drivers and residents alike. Thanks to hard work by our contractors and excellent partnerships with state and federal agencies, we will no longer have to endure the spectacle of sunken cars on Frelinghuysen Avenue and first responders rescuing them in rubber rafts.”
Most of Newark is served by a combined storm/sanitary sewer system that includes overflow points to various waterways within the city. When working properly, the Queen Ditch is meant to service the city’s urbanized industrial area by sending stormwater and sanitary sewer overflow to ditches that discharge into the Newark Bay. But since falling into disrepair, the Queen Ditch was unable to properly direct drainage, causing overloading and surcharging of the interceptor as well as flooding in the drainage area during storm events.
In partnership with CDM Smith, the Department of Water & Sewer Utilities, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the city initiated a plan to reestablish flow in the Queen Ditch. Newark began by installing a new 108- by 60-inch concrete box culvert and an in-line trash netting facility to prevent street debris and litter from entering waterways. Portions of the exiting drainage ditch were dredged, while others were converted to a closed conduit and a new headwall and tide gates were installed to prevent tidal flow from backflowing into the collection system. In addition to this grey infrastructure, project construction also included the restoration of a critical wetland habitat amid a highly developed area of the city.
Construction of the $5.9 million project required close coordination with the NJDEP and adjoining property owners and tenants, which included a hotel, the Newark Liberty International Airport employee parking facilities for United Airlines and a material distribution warehouse. CDM Smith obtained the necessary easements and developed a comprehensive plan to protect and maintain vehicular traffic through this site, as the elimination of traffic flow disruptions to these facilities was critical. Careful management and removal of contaminated historical fill and unfavorable subsurface conditions were also addressed throughout the project.
“CDM Smith helped the city of Newark solve a historic issue by improving the stormwater management of the area in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner,” said Department of Water and Sewer Utilities acting director Kareem Adeem. “The project exceeded the city’s needs by its timely completion under budget with minimal delays and impacts to adjoining property owners.”
With the design and construction of a sustainable and sound drainage facility, vital infrastructure and a critical wetland habitat were restored amid an industrial area of the city, and decades of frustration and costly flooding damage have come to an end. “We will gain a safer, cleaner, and stronger South Ward from this project,” said Mayor Baraka.