Bucks County Herald

Headquarters Road at Sheephole Road:

Riverkeeper calls on citizens to support temporary bridge

CLIFF LEBOWITZ



Proponents of a one-lane bridge rehab alternative call for complete replacement of the superstructure, but insist the 1812 piers can be readily rehabbed to provide adequate support for many more years.

Proponents of restoring Tinicum’s historic one-lane bridge on Headquarters Road near Sheephole Roadhave called for active support of their idea from state legislators and other state officials.

The bridge, built in 1812 over Tinicum Creek, and with its original piers still in place, has been closed for seven years, to the great consternation of the community, which has complained of significant inconvenience Residents also fear consequent untimely increased response time from emergency services.

In a May 2 press conference organized at the site by Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), the group called on citizens to contact their state senators and representatives, as well as Gov. Tom Wolf and Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards.

Last summer, DRN filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to block PennDOT and the Federal Highway Commission (FHWA) from pursuing the two-lane plan, stating they had failed to “consider all prudent and feasible alternatives, and mitigate any potential adverse effects to historic resources,” as well as “failing to conduct necessary maintenance of the bridge, leading to deterioration of the structure.”

Asked after the press conference about the status of the legal action, Delaware Riverkeeper and DRN leader Maya Van Rossum said the lawsuit had been withdrawn, under agreement with PennDOT that it would stop pursuing its effort to gain exclusion from the need to provide an environmental impact statement (EIS) for its two-lane plan, and would notify DRN if it renewed that effort, which would re-establish the legal action.

DRN engineering consultant Joseph Griffin, said a complete plan was ready for a temporary bridge, for erection in less than three months. Later, the temporary structure was estimated to cost about $1 million, while the one-lane permanent renovation would come in at about $2.7 million, and the two-lane replacement at $3.4 million. Funding is understood to come from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Doug Bond, from historic structure restoration specialists McMullan and Associates, said, “There was no question a rehabilitated structure could support traffic, well over the 10-tons” limit now in place, and would last for many more years.

He added that repair mortar used on the pier stones had trapped moisture, accelerating deterioration, and that the tops of the piers could be reconstructed using a mortar mix that was more compatible with the stone.

Dr. Erik Silldorff, DRN’s restoration director, claimed a “huge environmental impact” would result from the two-lane replacement, including loss of the riparian corridor that protected adjacent properties from erosion, as well as threats to insects, invertebrates, and fish.

He said the predicted problems derived from its much larger footprint than the present structure, and its call for moving one of the abutments significantly to the west.

Tinicum resident Amleto Pucci, an environmental engineer and hydrologist, who served for five years as chief of the environmental engineering division of the Bucks County Health Department, echoed Silldorff’s concerns.

Asked how far down the creek the erosion threat would go, he said “that’s what environmental impact statements are for.”

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