For more than 20 years, the bridge on Billingsport Road has been officially known as County Bridge number 3-F-18, over the railroad tracks that move material to and from industrial facilities in Paulsboro.
Many locals unofficially call it the Jeanne Giampola Bridge in honor of the woman who fought for its construction for decades.
Thanks to the efforts of a local resident, the county made the name change official this week.
Before the bridging, the car traffic was blocked by the trains for up to an hour at a time, which was a nuisance and, above all, a danger to public safety, as emergency vehicles were part of the traffic jams.
Giampola, who worked as a councilor and lawyer before her death at the age of 81 in 2016, has made it her business to solve the problem.
Her campaign for the bridge began in the 1970s and included a moment during her tenure on the council when she organized a group of women, pushed many strollers, and blocked a Conrail train to raise awareness.
Discussions about naming the bridge after Giampola lasted years and resumed after her death, but it never came to that.
Local resident Lenny Curtis took on the matter earlier this year after learning that the bridge was never named. He reached out to local leaders, including Giampola’s son, now alderman Alfonso Giampola, noting that the decision was up to the district leaders.
After Curtis spoke with county officials, the Gloucester County Board of Commissioners took action this week and voted to pass a resolution to rename the span of the Jeanne Giampola Memorial Bridge Crossing, âto posthumously recognize Jeanne Giampola for her many dedicated years serving the Borough of . in honor of Paulsboro and in the county of Gloucester. “
She served 23 years as a councilor in Paulsboro, 12 as council president and also as chairwoman of the district’s democratic committee. She later served as confidential assistant to the current Director of the Board of Commissioners, Robert Damminger.
Damminger, who worked with her on the local council, said the honor was well deserved.
âI’ve seen firsthand how she worked on it,â he said. âThe little lady took on Conrail and won. It calmed a lot of people. “
Giving ambulances unrestricted access to both sides of the city was a big deal, Damminger explained, and Giampola knew what to do.
âShe fought for years until she stood on railroad tracks blocking trains. The only thing bigger than her desire was her heart.
“She is very much missed,” said Damminger. âShe was a wonderful friend and someone I have looked up to all my life. I miss having her around me. “
The district is working on plans for an inauguration ceremony for the name of the bridge, said Damminger.
Giampola’s son was pleasantly surprised to learn the naming was official after various leaders had discussed the idea for more than 20 years.
Alfonso Giampola expressed his appreciation to Curtis for bringing the subject back to the county.
He just wishes his mother was here to see it.
“I think she would be happy,” he said of the honor, “and overwhelmed with pride.”
âI wish it had happened while she was alive so she could see it. But she’s upstairs and looks down on us. “
Curtis called the honor long overdue in view of Giampola’s contributions to the community.
“She has helped a lot of people in this city when councilors weren’t really seen as real people, so to speak,” he said. “She was a voice in this town.”
Paulsboro was her first love, Curtis said, and she proved it through her approach to public service.
“She was one of those people … you could reach out to her and ask a question and you might not get the answer you wanted, but she always got in touch with you.”
“I just think she was a legend in this town,” he said, noting that local athletes tend to get the greatest recognition for their achievements. “Not bad for a person who didn’t play football or fight in Paulsboro.”
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today NJ.com.
Matt Gray can be contacted at [email protected].