Township signs off on historic bridge acquisition
● By J. Chambless
The historic Chandler Mill Bridge has officially been sold by Chester County to Kennett Township for $1, for the purpose of the township owning and maintaining it, as well as converting the structure to a pedestrian- and bike-only bridge.
Richard L. Gaw
Scudder Stevens, Chairman of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors, affixed his signature to a transfer agreement on Oct. 7 that officially turned over the ownership of the historic Chandler Mill Bridge to the township, who will pay the sale price of $1 to Chester County, its previous owner.
The stipulations of the agreement, which was drafted by the county, include that all signage and equipment on or near the bridge must be returned to the county, and that the township will not hold the county liable for anything having to do with the bridge in the future. The three-page agreement is now on the township’s website.
As expected, Stevens and Supervisor Dr. Richard Leff voted in favor of the acquisition, while Supervisor Robert Hammaker voted against the acquisition.
The battle to acquire ownership of the bridge, begun several years ago and finally wrestled away from the county earlier this year, now gives the township the freedom to begin reconstructing it as a pedestrian-and-bicycle-only structure, while permitting the use of emergency vehicles. Before construction begins, however, the township is on hold until they hear whether or not they will receive a substantial grant, which would, if awarded, would pay for about two-thirds of the costs related to rebuilding the bridges.
In addition, Stevens said that additional ancillary issues still need to be addressed before the bridge renovation gets underway; namely, to look into the condition of the roads leading up to the bridge.
“I would expect that we would soon sit down and begin to outline through that whole process with our experts and engineers and the Land Trust and the public, so that we can put together an action plan,” Stevens said.
The Oct. 7 meeting was merely the latest in a series of discussions and legislation that has occurred on the subject of the bridge. On Nov. 5, 2014, by a vote of 2-1, the board passed a motion to authorize the township to take actions necessary to obtain the bridge from the county, which was authorized on Dec. 8, 2014 by the Chester County Board of Commissioners. On Jan. 21 of this year, Stevens and Leff passed a resolution declaring that the bridge will be re-opened as a structure intended for pedestrians, pedal bicycles and emergency vehicles weighing up to and including 20 tons. Under Resolution No. 2105-8, the bridge will otherwise be restricted to motor vehicles, as well as the construction of appropriate signage, break-away or removable bollards and other devices to prevent vehicular traffic from using the bridge, but still allow emergency vehicles to pass.
“We want to thank you for having for the courage, the foresight and the vision to do what you’ve done with this,” said Gwen Lacy, executive director for the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, which has been the area’s most vocal supporter of converting the now-closed bridge into a pedestrian-and bike-only structure. “The Consortium and the Land Conservancy all stand ready to cooperate to make this the best decision you’ve ever made for the public benefit. There has been controversy, so now there should be some accolades as well.”
Stevens gave credit to the entire community, including those who were not in favor of closing the reconstructed bridge to vehicle traffic, for allowing the conversation to “go forward in an organized and programmed and thoughtful way,” he said. “We had a lot of meetings where a lot of people were involved and there was a mixed bag of what people had to say. Some were in favor and some were opposed.”
The supervisors have not yet decided how they wish to proceed on the design of the bridge, but once they do, properly specified bids will then be sent out to prospective builders. The township has applied for a $1.5 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources which, if received, will allow the township to be reimbursed 80 percent of the costs involved in repairing the bridge, once it is built.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .