In the wake of federal data released on April 24 that said Pennsylvania has the most bridges in need of significant repairs, two bridges were closed in Chester County last week.
The federal report said that 63,000 U.S. bridges are deficient, and Pennsylvania has 5,218 of them. That's nearly a fourth of all bridges in the state. The data was compiled by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, which pointed out that deficient bridges are not only dangerous, they impact the economy. Because of reduced weight allowances or detours around deficient bridges, transporting goods takes longer and is more expensive, resulting in higher prices for consumers.
The concrete bridge over a trickle of water in Kennett Square is no more than six feet long, but it's going to cause trouble for drivers traveling on Thompson Road between Baltimore Pike and Hillendale Road.
On April 24, the New Garden Township Public Works Department announced that Thompson Road would be closed in the 200 block due to a bridge collapse.
The deck of the bridge appears to have dropped, and a hole in one lane is deep enough that water can be seen flowing underneath it. The concrete abutments of the bridge on both sides are also heavily eroded by the small stream. Safety barrels and a “road closed” sign were placed around the hole, but one driver chose to ignore the sign on Thursday afternoon.
“Just pretend you didn't see me,” she said to a reporter as she drove across the bridge on her way to Baltimore Pike.
There is no estimate on when the bridge can be repaired or replaced, according to the Public Works Department. Any updates will be posted on the New Garden Township Police website (www.ngpd.org).
Due to severe deterioration, the historic Burnt Mill Road Bridge in Kennett Township will be closed indefinitely, according to a press release distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on April 25.
During the bridge closure, traffic on Burnt Mill Road will be detoured over Norway Road and Spring Mill Road.
“After a bridge inspection, it was determined that the steel beams on the bridge were deteriorated to the point that the bridge could no longer handle traffic,” said PennDOT district executive Lester C. Toaso.
The steel I-beam bridge over a branch of the Red Clay Creek was built in 1935, is 16 feet wide, 22 feet long, and carries an average of more than 500 vehicles a day. The bridge was posted with a weight limit of 12 tons.
"Under normal circumstances, we will inspect a bridge once every two years," said Charles Metzger, PennDOT community relations coordinator. "When there are signs of deterioration, we go every year, and as a bridge becomes more deteriorated, we inspect every six months."
Metzger said that PennDOT continued to lower the weight limit on theBurnt Mill Road Bridge, but said that the main components of the bridge had deteriorated to the point where it was agreed that it could no longer accommodate vehicles.
Although Metzger said that PennDOT is anticipating transportation funding that will pay for a group bridge project that will allow several bridges in Pennsylvania to be repaired, he does not see the Burnt Mill Road Bridge falling into that category. He said that the bridge will remained closed until a project is designed to either repair or replace it.
Staff Writers Richard Gaw and John Chambless contributed to this report.