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- Mercer County today received approval for its proposed design for a new bridge over Jacobs Creek in Hopewell Township and safety improvements to Bear Tavern Road in the vicinity of the bridge. The proposal, endorsed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, preserves the historically significant area while providing for a new bridge on nearly the same footprint as the existing span and roadway.

“Mercer County is extremely pleased by the Department’s decision and we appreciate the hard work of that office, the Governor, Hopewell Township, and all the other agencies involved in reaching this conclusion,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “After many years of discourse, we have been able to take the concerns of our Freeholder Board, DEP, and the residents and create what we believe is a bridge and roadway safety project that is respectful to the historic district and supports today’s traffic and expected growth of Hopewell Township.”

Hughes said the desires of various groups and stakeholders weighed heavily in the design of the bridge, and that balancing the interests was important.

Mercer County has been working with engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff for design of a new bridge and roadway to accommodate the thousands of cars that travel Bear Tavern Road every day. Mercer County will work with the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office to ultimately decide aesthetics for the bridge, which will be designed to fit the rural and historic character of the Jacobs Creek setting.

The area near Jacobs Creek Bridge is designated a historic district, requiring the County to continue consulting with DEP throughout the project as it has since the proposal began in 2004. The county has submitted its Freshwater Wetlands Permits application to the state and expects to begin work as soon as all permits are granted. Simultaneously, the County will replace the bridge over Ewing Creek. Once the project is under way, it is expected to take no less than a year to complete. The bridge over Jacobs Creek, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene, has been removed and preserved. The County plans to relocate it permanently to Howell Living History Farm, where it would be seen by the more than 65,000 people who visit there each year. The County is currently seeking to reduce the weight allowance and speed limit on Bear Tavern Road.