Marriage is for better or for worse. That unspoken thought passed between Phil, 60, and Meg Costello, 56, on their 36th wedding anniversary as they slowly, laboriously carried heating oil in 5-gallon drums — weighing roughly 40 pounds each — across two footbridges to their home on Mill Road in Flanders.
The couple made more than two dozen trips that November day, ensuring they had enough fuel for the coming cold weather. Their effort completed another chapter in a long story of frustration, which has plagued three homeowners since the bridge that connects their road to the rest of Flanders, a section of Mount Olive, was washed away.
But their story should soon have a happy ending. After four months, a new bridge is under construction and should be completed within the next few weeks, depending on the weather.
The tale began Sept. 28, when torrential rain and flash flooding swept through the northwestern part of the state. Homes were washed right off their foundations. Cars were swept down streets, which had turned into raging streams.
The storm capped a two-month stretch during which northwestern New Jersey received nearly 2 feet of water. The once-verdant landscape surrounding the Costellos’ home now resembles a pockmarked moonscape.
“We were ready to walk away,” Meg Costello said. “It was devastating.” Linda Cole did walk away, leaving behind her stone house. “I still have no furnace or kitchen,” Cole said.
The Mill Road bridge, which ran over an upstream tributary of the South Branch of the Raritan River, connected three homes on Mill Road to River Road. This led to Bartley Road and Route 206 in Mount Olive, less than 1 mile away.
No bridge, no access. The homeowners built a makeshift footbridge so they could get across, but their cars were useless. Suddenly, all of life’s modern conveniences were thought of in new ways.
Supermarket considerations revolved around what is heavy, not what is needed, as the Costellos hauled bag after bag about 100 yards from River Road to their home.
“The washing machine started acting up,” Costello said, “and I thought ‘Oh, no.’
But finally, a measure of relief is at hand.
R&R Construction, a Chester-based construction company, is building the new bridge.
The crews have already dropped 6 feet of cement near the banks of the river.
The rails are up, the base is down and it should be open to foot traffic this week. It will be another two weeks before it is ready for vehicles.
Costello has praised the R & R crew with almost religious zeal, thanking them for the promised salvation.