The preliminary plan for widening and rebuilding the Congo Road Bridge was revealed to residents of Douglass Township Thursday night, March 28. Project heads from The HNTB Companies and PennDot were in attendance to answer questions from residents.
Though the plan is in its infancy and actual construction would not begin for years, most people agree the bridge is inadequate and in need of reconstruction. Reconstruction off the bridge would include removal of built-up sediment and a widening of both the creek and bridge. Rebuilding the bridge would require state and federal funding which currently does not exist.
As is, the bridge is narrow and cannot safely accommodate two vehicles traveling in opposite directions. Flooding from Middle Creek also creates impassable conditions during heavy rains. Tom Yarnall, lifelong resident and neighbor to the bridge, recalled historic flooding of the area. “It’s unimaginable the amount of water that comes up to the bridge,” said Yarnall.
Built in 1923, the bridge currently has two 10 foot lanes with no shoulder, new plans call for the same 10 foot lanes with an additional 2 feet of shoulder on either side. The bridge, as it stands, has a center pier which would be removed to create a single structure bridge. The hope is to allow a more natural flow of water with less build-up of debris during periods of flooding.
The removal of sediment and the deepening of Middle Creek under the bridge would not only lessen flood effects but would leave enough space for a future trail, accessible to the public for recreational use. Estimated build time for the project would be four to six months and traffic detours would utilize Creek Road, Lisenbeidler, and Sassmansville Road. School bus routes would be mildly affected but drivers would have the use of a driveway to turn around.
For plans to advance, federal and state funding for a final design plan and construction would have to be made available.
“Many bridges are in need of repair, priority decides funding,” said PennDot Civil Engineer and project manager Judith Arena.
For some residents the rebuilding of the bridge is a tad bittersweet. The bridge has stood for 87 years, surviving flooding and the weight of truck traffic is a testament to the original builders butCongo Road resident Gail Norton agrees, “I like that its historic but it’s necessary.”
Jeff Griffiths and Ryan Whittington, project managers for HNTB, explained that the final design plans for the new bridge would support an estimated 100 year life span.