Gloucester County said yesterday it would build a $16 million overpass linking Interstate 295 with a proposed deepwater port facility in Paulsboro.
The overpass, which is to be funded by the state Department of Transportation, could be operational within four years.
"This is the single largest project we've ever done to spark economic development in Gloucester County," County Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney said.
An agreement between the county and the state for the overpass was sent to the freeholders for their approval last night.The port is to be built on a 130-acre former BP chemical and oil storage complex. Last month, Paulsboro signed a 90-year, $1-a-year lease agreement with BP allowing the port project to move forward.
The exact path of the overpass, which would include a 400-foot span across Mantua Creek, is to be determined by the Department of Transportation. One proposed route would skirt the southern fringe of Citgo's asphalt refinery in West Deptford; another would run below and to the west of the Gloucester County Utilities Authority, also in West Deptford.
The bridge would allow trucks ferrying cargo to the port to avoid residential neighborhoods, Paulsboro Mayor John Burzichelli said.
"Getting these trucks away from residential neighborhoods makes this residential friendly," Burzichelli said.
Burzichelli and other public officials have hailed the port project as a chance for Paulsboro, a struggling, blue-collar, refinery town, to experience an economic rebirth.
Freeholder Joseph Brigandi said the project would "totally revitalize" Paulsboro.
A preliminary study for the Gloucester County Improvement Authority in 2003 estimated that the port project would cost $250 million. A combined port and distribution center could ultimately create 3,000 jobs and bring in more than $30 million in local, state and federal tax revenue, the study said.
The overpass could traverse 63 acres abutting the BP site that are owned by Philadelphia lawyer George Gallenthin. Gallenthin has said the port project would run roughshod over his own development ambitions.
Burzichelli said yesterday that there would be negotiations with Gallenthin over the use of a portion of his land for the overpass and that if the negotiations failed, "eminent domain would be engaged."
Reached by phone yesterday, Gallenthin would not comment.