Bucks County Herald

Tinicum audience cheers new chief

Headquarters Road Bridge construction still at issue

CLIFF LEBOWITZ



In a re-creation of the actual ceremony, a few minutes earlier at the July 3 Tinicum Township public board of supervisors meeting, Magisterial District Judge Gary Gambardella swears in Matt Phelan as new police chief.

In a township meeting room packed with enthusiastic well-wishers, new Tinicum Township Police Chief Matt Phelan was sworn in at the start of the July 3 public board of supervisors meeting.

Phelan had been serving as acting chief since last January, when he replaced James Sabath, who is now police chief for Newtown Borough.

The overflow crowd included Sabath, as well as other local police officers, and other uniformed personnel. Included were a variety of other local first responders, and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officers. Phelan’s new appointment had been announced at the June 5 supervisors meeting.

Later in the July 3 meeting, supervisors conducted a discussion with several residents who were deeply concerned and frustrated about the now seven-year closing of the Headquarters Road bridge, over Tinicum Creek at Sheephole Road. Progress toward restoring the crossing has essentially been at a stalemate.

The residents, who emphasized they simply “want a bridge,” were particularly critical of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRVN), who have acted on behalf of other residents who insist the one-lane bridge could be rehabilitated as a preferred alternative to the two-lane replacement advocated by PennDOT.

Those other residents have persistently publicly petitioned supervisors, for the duration of the closing, to do more to advocate for the preservation, as well as for other bridges in the area, which is designated as a national historic resource.

The simply-want-a bridge view, with vigorous criticism of DRVN, had not been heard from the floor at a supervisors meeting for several years. It was strongly encouraged by Supervisor Rich Rosamilia and Supervisors Chair John Blanchard, including urging attendance at the next supervisors meeting to voice it, when DRVN representatives are next scheduled to appear.

When Riverkeeper’s standing in the matter was questioned, Solicitor Stephen Harris explained it derived from the creek’s designation as an Exceptional Value Stream, which is an environmental protection designation.

The township’s comprehensive plan calls for preservation of both natural and historic resources.

Responding to questions about how the stalemate could be ended, Rosamilia, who has been serving as the township’s liaison to PennDOT on the matter, said he hoped it could be moved forward by federal authorities granting PennDOT its request for categorical exclusion (CE) from providing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for their two-lane proposal.

Asked about that during a break before an executive session, he said he meant that whether it was granted, which was understood to trigger a lawsuit by DRVN to prevent the exclusion, or not granted, which would cause PennDOT to provide an EIS, the stalemate would be ended.

Rosamilia also stated that an engineers-only meeting, between PennDOT and DRVN, had been proposed as a means for breaking the stalemate, and that PennDOT had offered dates.
Meanwhile, in a June 29 release, DRVN criticized PennDOT for “pushing back planned action” on the project “until 2022,” shifting funding “from fiscal years 2020 and 2021,” which “guarantees the bridge would be closed and unusable for at least four more years.”




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