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Narberth OKs $300K Bridge Repair

An engineering study found the fixed bridge could maintain its 9-ton load limit. Desire to boost downtown businesses trumped concerns about paying for a temporary fix.

The century-old Narberth Avenue bridge will be repaired and reopened to vehicle traffic at a cost of about $300,000, Borough Council decided Wednesday night in a split vote.

The borough's lone north-south connection over the Amtrak and SEPTA train tracks has been closed since late August, when a PennDOT inspection found structural deficiencies.

Engineers from Pennoni & Associates determined that 11 of 25 steel girders have deteriorated and need new steel to bolster them, Pennoni's Craig Suhoskey told council members at Wednesday night's special meeting. Once repaired, the bridge will be strong enough to maintain its previous 9-ton load limit, Suhoskey said.

The borough is planning to demolish the bridge in 2014 and build a new one in its place, a plan that had several council members and residents skeptical about a potential six-figure investment in a bridge whose days are numbered. The average Narberth household would have to pay about $140, to come up with $300,000 from the tax base.

But business owners have pleaded for council to consider how an avoidable longer closure could hurt their livelihoods and the vibrancy of the downtown.

The bridge almost certainly will not be reopened during any of the holiday shopping season; several officials estimated the repairs would be completed in January.

Still, business owners said the old bridge would be reopened long enough to be valuable, since there was no guarantee the new bridge will be underway on time. Officials attribute several years of other delays mainly to bureaucratic holdups with Amtrak and PennDOT.

Five of seven council members voted to fund the repairs: Andrea Deutsch, Aaron Muderick, Sam Quinn, Bob Wegbreit and Bob Weisbord. Council members Michael Alexander and Heidi Boise voted against.

What do you think of this decision? Tell us in the comments section below.

Ed Ridgway October 22, 2012 at 01:02 PM
The bridge repair is not just for the businesses. Thousands of cars use that bridge every day. Furthermore, those who attended the meetings know that PennDot finds a 1st quarter 2014 start for the new project unlikely, leaving us in a limbo with a bridge closed indefinitely.
Michael Alexander October 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Jim -- Hey, it may turn out that the bridge replacement starts later than we anticipate. The earliest is probably March 2013, but who knows, it could be 2014. Hard to say at what point the repairs actually make sense to make, but the numbers start to make more sense if we use the repaired bridge for two years or more. To everyone -- I'm happy to see a public debate here, but it would have been even better to have these opinions presented at a Borough Council meeting before the decision was made. Making these opinions public AFTER the decision has somewhat less of an impact. Get involved!
Ed Ridgway October 22, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Mike - bridge replacement in March 2013?
Michael Alexander October 22, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Just run this on my comment and it makes sense: s/March 2013/March 2014/g; s/2014/2015/g;
David F December 06, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I have to agree with Michael about the convenience of making short shopping trips from a car, unlike Suburban Square actually. And, although I walk and take the train more than I drive to downtown, since the train bridge has been out, I end up having to take Wynnewood Ave to get home (south side) from Montgomery Ave, e.g. Acme's, and have skipped some shopping stops downtown to avoid looping around, so have probably done a bit less shopping in Narberth while the bridge is out.

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