BRIDGE WORK AHEAD
Grosstown Road bridge work part of dizzying array of regional projects
The new bridge carrying Grosstown Road over the Manatawny Creek will close for two weeks on Monday, Aug. 13, through Friday, Aug. 24.
The daytime closures will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and are necessary for installation of a storm sewer manhole, guardrail and paving work.
During the daytime, motorists will be directed to follow a six-mile detour along West High Street and Manatawny Street, reports the office of state Rep. Marcy Toepel, R147th Dist.
In the event of unfavorable weather or unforeseen activities, this schedule may change.
The bridge opened to traffic in December 2017.
Construction began in August 2017 and the project was one of the 558 bridges in Pennsylvania, and one of five in Montgomery County, replaced under the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project at a cost of $899 million.
The closure represents just one of many bridge projects and closures that can make navigating the region’s roadways a bit of a challenge.
Pennsylvania is struggling to close a backlog of long-delayed bridge construction and maintenance projects, perhaps driven by the fact that Pennsylvania is home more than 86,000 miles of rivers,
streams, and creeks — second in the United States only to Alaska.
At 22,779 bridges overall, Pennsylvania has the ninth highest amount in the country.
The average age of bridges on the state system is more than 50 years old, according to PennDOT.
And at 4,173, Pennsylvania currently has the second-highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the country, according a report from the American Road and Transportation Building Association released in January.
Over the last 10 years, 2,341 new bridges have been constructed in the state and 2,077 have undergone major reconstruction.
Pennsylvania has identified needed repairs on 13,894 bridges overall, which the state estimates will cost $7.7 billion, according to the report.
But the state has also made great progress in addressing the problem of crumbling bridges.
According to the agency’s numbers through 2017, the state’s number of deficient bridges has been nearly cut in half since 2008, from 6,034 to 3,114 as of Jan. 1., according to a Feb. 11 report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Unfortunately, 200 to 250 bridges are added to the “structurally deficient list” each year, the paper reported.
Some bridges are owned by the state, others by the county and still others by the municipality and funding to repair and replace them is often from a patchwork of sources.
In addition to the massive, years-long effort to replace two sets of Route 422 bridges over the Schuylkill River — one set between Lower Pottsgrove and North Coventry and the other between West Pottsgrove and North Coventry; as well as the new Armand Hammer Boulevard bridge over the highway; and the new highway bridge over Porter Road and the Norfolk Southern freight rail line — there is no shortage of local repair and replacement projects. They include: • The current $800,000 to $900,000 replacement of the 97-year-old Rupert Road bridge over Hartenstine Creek in Lower Pottsgrove,
• In Amity Township, North Main Street will be closed and detoured for work to rehabilitate the bridge over Monocacy Creek beginning next week.
Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 8, and lasting through midNovember, Main Street will be closed and detoured between Monocacy Creek Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, PennDOT announced. Access will be maintained to all properties.
• Last month, Old Reading Pike in West Pottsgrove near the Pottstown water treatment plant was closed while PennDOT replaces a structurally deficient bridge that crosses an unnamed stream there.
• In June, PennDOT began work to rehabilitate the bridge carrying Hares Hill Road over French Creek in East Pikeland Township.
Hares Hill Road has been closed and detoured between Camp Council Road and Irish Way and will remain so through late August, according to PennDOT.
• In New Hanover, plans to replace a bridge on Swamp Pike and another on North Charlotte Street in 2019 and 2020 will have both roads closed for up to 12 weeks while they are replaced by construction crews.
• Montgomery County’s structural repair of the Henry Road bridge over West Perkiomen Creek in Douglass Township is in the final engineering phase and work is set to begin in 2019, according to Douglass Township Manager Pete Hiryak.
• Final design plans for the replacement of County Line Road bridge between Douglass and Colebrookdale townships have been accepted by PennDOT, and work is set to begin in 2020, said Hiryak.
• PennDOT’s replacement of the Congo Road bridge over Middle Creek is in the final engineering stage with a tentative construction start date of 2020, he said.
• Design work for PennDOT’s replacement of the Niantic Road bridge over the West Branch of Perkiomen Creek has begun and a tentative start date for that construction work is in 2021, he said.
• No start date has been set yet for PennDOT’s plans to replace the Gilbertsville Road bridge over a tributary of Minister Creek south of Grosser Road and design work has not yet begun, according to Hiryak.
• Montgomery County has begun work on replacing the Paper Mill Road bridge over Perkiomen Creek in Douglass and work is expected to take six to eight months, he said.
Additionally, last September, Montgomery County Commissioners approved contracts and projects for 19 bridge projects while also having 35 active bridge projects already underway.
Among the 19 projects, some of which are mentioned above, were local bridges such as:
• Awarding an engineering contract for the Lutheran Road bridge over Minister Creek in New Hanover Township;
• Awarding a contract for the Peevy Road bridge over Perkiomen Creek in Upper Hanover Township;
• Request for engineering proposals for the Ludwig Road bridge in New Hanover Township.
And what story about area bridges would be complete without mention of the Keim Street bridge over the Schuylkill river between Pottstown and North Coventry?
The bridge was closed in 2010 after being declared structurally unsound.
The latest update was provided in April by the Montgomery County Commissioners during their annual listening tour.
They said construction on replacing that bridge is set to begin in 2020.
When the county commissioners visited Pottstown in 2016 in a similar forum, Commissioners’s Chairwoman Val Arkoosh, then the board’s vice chairman, said “construction will be starting in 2019 and it will take 18 months to build.”
One of the things that makes the project a slow one is that fact that 80 percent of the cost is being shouldered by the federal government.
The new Grosstown Road bridge over Manatawny Creek shortly after it opened. The bridge will be closed for at least two weeks starting Aug. 12 for additional work.
The Rupert Road bridge was closed in July.
This view of the Keim Street bridge shows the grass that is grown in the cracks of the bridge while drivers await the 10 or more years it will take to replace it.
New Hanover Police Chief Kevin McKeon outlines possible detour routes for when Swamp Pike is closed to replace a small bridge between Wagner Road and New Hanover Square Road.
Structural repair of the Henry Road bridge in Douglass is set to begin in 2019.