PA Bridge Closure Could Strand Local Park
City officials in Easton, Pennsylvania, are concerned that a local island park will become inaccessible as they search for funding for bridge repairs. The Hill Road Bridge is reportedly in “serious need” of coating work to stop corrosion on the structure.
While Hugh Moore Park can be accessed by car via two bridges, the other bridge has been closed for almost a decade due to severely corroded support beams.
The Northampton County-owned bridge runs from Main Street in Glendon over the Lehigh Canal, while the city of Easton owns the other bridge from Lehigh Drive in West Easton over the river. The bridges provide access Hugh Moore Park, named after the Dixie Cup founder, which is nestled between the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal.
The 520-acre park is reportedly home to the National Canal Museum, along with its mule-drawn canal boat, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, playgrounds, a dog park, bike skills course and picnic areas.
Both pale green bridges are about 100 years old and, according to reports, have not “aged well.”
Troubled waters for lone bridge into Easton’s Hugh Moore Park https://t.co/jtx8smWJVi— lehighvalleylive.com (@lehighvalley) September 26, 2022
In both 2011 and 2012, the Easton-owned bridge shut down for extensive repairs totaling $1.2 million. Repairs included rebuilding the deck and tops of the piers.
Back in June 2013, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation inspectors found that the supports on the county-owned bridge had been corroded through. Sections of the steel support beams were completed corroded through, calling the integrity of the bridge into “serious question” and resulting in its shutdown.
Then-Public Works Director Steven DeSalva said that because the bridge runs over railroad tracks, it made close-up inspections difficult. However, by coordinating with the railroad company, PennDOT found that the rust was not just on the surface of the beams.
“It's almost like it was rusting from the inside out instead of the outside in,” Thomas Kohler, Northampton County's bridge superintendent said at the time. “It's really bizarre.”
The old paint, last coated in 1985, was reportedly holding the structure together. When inspectors hit it, the metal “crumbled.”
The Morning Call reported following the closure that it was “obvious which one has gotten more tender loving care in recent years.” Reports described the Hill Road Bridge as stained with rust and peeling paint, while the Glendon Bridge had a smooth macadam deck, matte paint and new caps on the piers.
To repaint the closed bridge, it would have cost $500,000. "We wanted to paint this bridge a long time ago, but it's been cost-prohibitive," Kohler said.
"Funding has disappeared for these things. This is one of the reasons we're in the boat we're in now. They're not keeping up their end of the bargain," he said.
Possible Bridge Closure
Now, Easton’s Director of Public Services Dave Hopkins says that the city’s bridge is in serious need of coating work to stop corrosion and extended the structure’s lifespan.
So far, the city has “cobbled together” almost $1 million for the project. $900,000 of these funds come from the American Rescue Plan Act. However, according to Lehigh Valley Live, that repair estimate has ballooned to $2.2 million.
The repair work has reportedly been necessary but now, “we’re getting to the point where it’s really becoming a serious concern,” Hopkins said.
Last week, the city reportedly raised the funding issue to PennDOT and the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study. The bridge, however, is not on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which is a high priority list of highway, bridge, transit and multi-modal projects in the region.
If funding cannot be found, closing the bridge for repairs would mean the island park would be inaccessible to visitors by car and create another gap on the D&L Trail.
County Deputy Administration Director Becky Bartlett told Lehigh Valley Live that the county intends to remove its bridge, but plans are in the preliminary stages. No information is available for a potential timeline or project costs.
The county bridge project also applied for $2 million in TIP funding, but did not make the list, Bartlett said.