Zettlemoyer's Bridge replacement talks move forward in Greenwich Township

Photo by Joe Brown Solicitor Dan Becker listens during the public comment portion of the Greenwich Township Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 12.
Photo by Joe Brown Greenwich Township Engineer Dennis Smaglinski addresses the public during the Greenwich Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 12.

Zettlemoyer’s Bridge moved closer to being replaced with an entirely new structure.

Members of Greenwich Township Board of Supervisors and representatives from County of Berks offices met to discuss the bridge’s future.

The proposed offer to replace the bridge was a complete reversal from the county’s original stance, in which they offered the township two options – limited rehabilitation efforts or demolition coupled with improving Long Road, the alternative route that connects a dozen or so residents to Route 143.

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Board of Supervisors Chairman Victor Berger, who was accompanied at the meeting by the township solicitor, Dan Becker, addressed concerns regarding flooding, fire safety and more without a functioning bridge that emergency vehicles can safely navigate.

According to Becker, Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt and the county’s director of Facilities and Operations, Ryan Hunter, were very understanding of Berger’s concerns, which led to the revamped verbal offer. No written proposal has been completed or exchanged at this time.

“I think they understood and listened to the concerns about the health, safety and welfare,” Becker said in an interview with The Patriot.

According to the information presented by Becker during his report at the Greenwich Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 12, the county re-proposed the full replacement of Zettlemoyer’s Bridge, an approximately $2.5 million project over the course of three years that would restore the bridge to an adequate weight limit to allow emergency vehicles to cross safely. The new bridge would have a minimum lifespan of 50 years.

The only stipulation is that upon completion of the new bridge, Greenwich Township would assume permanent ownership of the bridge, which is currently owned by the County of Berks. All future repairs or anything involving the new bridge would then become the sole responsibility of the township.

Although further discussion is needed to settle the details, including the added possibility of straightening Long Road, the board of supervisors ultimately passed a motion to move forward in discussion with the county on talks of replacing Zettlemoyer’s Bridge with the knowledge that the township would assume ownership of the completed product.

In other roadway news, the township requested that their roadmaster, Bobby Follweiler, acquire quotes from several outside engineering firms for a Road Construction Study to be completed on Old Route 22.

The study is a precautionary measure that the township is planning to take as a result of PennDOT’s I-78 construction project.

“It’s [Old Route 22] not the official PennDOT detour, but anytime there’s an accident or something happens, it’s the quickest route for the trucks,” Follweiler said. “If it were to get completely destroyed, the township doesn’t have the money to just rebuild the entire road, especially if we’re not the ones putting traffic on it.”

According to the board, Weisenberg Township inquired about going in on the project together with Greenwich Township since Old Route 22 affects both townships. Follweiler was tasked with working with the neighboring township to choose the best firm for the job.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Cindy Kershner raised another concern regarding tractor-trailers driving on Zettlemoyer Road (not related or near the bridge). Kershner, a 15-year area resident who lives on Zettlemoyer Road, expressed her concern regarding semis making three-point turns near her property.

According to Kershner, the I-78 ramps are not lit, so numerous tractor-trailers come down Zettlemoyer Road when they miss the ramp. In order to turn around, they make a right turn onto Bower Road, and then back up towards Kershner’s residence. This has been a normal occurrence over the years, but on July 10 a semi misjudged the turn.

“This guy did a three-point turn and completely wiped out our landscaping, he broke the reflectors [and] knocked the rock wall over,” Kershner said.

In addition, he flattened Kershner’s mailbox, which she presented in a photo to the board.

The board agreed to look into improving the situation. Placing restrictive signs that would limit trucks using the road or improving the lack of lighting for the I-78 ramps were discussed as possible solutions to pursue.