BIRDSBORO — Over the past year, residents of Birdsboro have been forced to use detours and circuitous routes to get around the borough due to two bridges under construction.
But that’s about to get easier. Well, for some people.
For their neighbors in Union and Amity townships, it might get harder.
Construction on the Hay Creek Bridge and a new bridge over the Schuylkill River on Route 345 both started in August 2012.
Because of the construction, tractor-trailers traveling on Route 724 had to start their detour for Route 345 as far east as Route 100 in North Coventry.
Ron Young, a spokesman for the Fifth District of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said the Hay Creek Bridge is “tentatively scheduled to open on May 3, barring any significant nasty weather.”
On Wednesday, workers were laying asphalt and adding the finishing touches on the bridge.
Ed Satiro, the owner of Italian Delite, said he is ready for the construction to be over. The pizza shop is located on East Main Street, a half-block from the two bridges under construction.
“I can’t wait until they open,” he said. “It definitely has slowed business.”
Dianna Newkirk owns the Rita’s Water Ice next to Italian Delite. She said she couldn’t be sure if the slow business at the shop is due to the current bout of bad weather or the bridge construction.
Birdsboro Borough Manager Aaron Durso said that businesses close to the construction near the bridges were not happy at first.
Commuters heading into the borough from the east had to take a simple but narrow route around the Hay Creek Bridge construction which added a few minutes to their drive.
Durso said that the increase in truck traffic on the side roads has upset some residents.
The construction for the new bridge over the Schuylkill River has closed a Turkey Hill Minit Mart at 320 North Furnace Road.
Nicole Dilger, an executive administrative assistant with the company, said that the store closed on April 7 and they will have to move to a new location.
“We will be building a larger, brand-new store not far from where the store is currently,” Dilger said. The company acquired land that is attached to the current location and Dilger said they hope to be open again in August or September of this year.
Durso said that the Route 345 bridge over the Schuylkill River is considered Pennsylvania’s most structurally deficient bridge on a list of 4,774 in the state. On the department’s website, a structurally deficient bridge is safe to drive on, which is why the current bridge leading into the borough is still open during construction.
The bridge under construction over the river is expected to be open in June 2014.
The estimated cost on both bridges is $15,817,827, according to PennDOT.
Durso thinks being able to keep the old bridge open has been beneficial.
“We’ve had no shut down of the bridge yet,” he said. “Traffic has been an issue while they have been working because they have had flaggers out there and it does impede the flow but we are getting a brand-new bridge.”
Despite the cost, he sees great potential once the new bridge over the Schuykill River is complete. Durso said there will then be greater possibility for more industrial business in the downtown area. The new bridge will be a more direct route that will be able to handle the heavy truck traffic coming into the borough for existing and future industrial businesses, he said.
“I think some of our bigger industrial businesses will do really well because it will save on gas and hopefully we can bring in new industrial businesses since we have better access,” Durso said.
But just as the residents of Birdsboro are about to see the Hay Creek Bridge open, residents in Amity and Union townships are about to see one close.
Two bridges in the area will be worked on, both are on River Bridge Road.
The first is the train trestle for Norfolk Southern Railroad in Amity Township and the second is for vehicular traffic over the Schuylkill River connecting Amity and Union townships.
Construction is scheduled to start on May 6. So if all goes well with the Hay Creek Bridge, residents of the area will have about three days to drive unimpeded by construction and detours.
Ron Smith works in the transportation department for the Daniel Boone School District and said that a quarter of the buses will have new routes in the fall due to the construction.
For the rest of the current school year, there will only be slight detours around the construction because buses will use Squirrel Hollow Road, Smith said.
He said the new routes will mainly affect the high school, middle school and Monocacy Elementary Center.
The school district has been planning the new routes for two years and information will go out to parents over the summer about the changes.
Construction for these two bridges is expected to be done in July 2015, according to PennDOT.
PennDOT also said it would take an estimated $8,372,422 to replace both bridges on River Bridge Road.