NJ Sen. Ray Lesniak calls for federal investigation into Route 35 project

A New Jersey state senator is calling for a federal investigation into the Route 35 construction project at the Jersey Shore because he wants to

New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak wants a federal investigation into the Route 35 construction project. The project went $76 million over budget.

New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak wants a federal investigation into the Route 35 construction project. The project went $76 million over budget. (5/12/16)

JERSEY SHORE - A New Jersey state senator is calling for a federal investigation into the Route 35 construction project at the Jersey Shore because he wants to know why it went over budget.

Sen. Ray Lesniak says that the Superstorm Sandy recovery project went $76 million over budget, and he wants congressional hearings about it.

"We will keep the pressure on because this is just too big a boondoggle not to find out what happened,” Lesniak says. “I don't expect to get a fair evaluation of what went on by the state, but I think the feds will do it and I think there's enough here for them to get down to the bottom of it."

The project spanned Route 35 in Ocean County from Bay Head to Island Beach State Park. It cost $341 million, which is 29 percent over the budget.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Steve Schapiro says there were unforeseen circumstances that caused the project to cost more money than originally projected.

Schapiro says in a statement, "Because we weren't working in the summer to accommodate business owners, weather was an issue.  When you have a snowstorm every few days it makes work challenging."

Schapiro also says that gas pipes underground were much worse than the utility company ever expected.  He says that road crews had to stop work to allow the gas company to make repairs.

State officials say that Superstorm Sandy shifted pipes so far away from their original locations, that what workers found didn't always match the maps.  That stalled the project, and ran up the cost.

The DOT spokesperson also says this was not a simple "mill and pave" job, and points out that the highway project included a new drainage system with nine pump stations, dozens of outfalls, and a road top three times as deep as the previous road to better withstand storms.

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