POTTSTOWN PA – The South Keim Street bridge crossing the Schuylkill River between the borough of Pottstown and North Coventry (PA) Township will have been officially closed for 12 months today (Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011). Montgomery County officials initially predicted it would be barricaded for only eight weeks.
Those same officials would likely agree it’s been a rocky year for the bridge that once carried 9,400 vehicles a day from the river’s banks.
The bridge was closed temporarily Oct. 19, 2010, when structural problems were suspected. The county later determined it to be unsound, closed it permanently, and established new detours to get around it. Cost estimates for its repair or replacement ranged into the millions of dollars. At one point, Pottstown Borough Council created an uproar by suggesting removal of the bridge so that money, if allocated, might be used on other projects.
Because of the detours, a significant increase in motor vehicle traffic now travels east and west on Industrial Highway through Lower Pottsgrove to use the Hanover Street, Pottstown, bridge for crossing the Schuylkill. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation several months ago installed signals at Industrial Highway and Moser Road to help control traffic flow there.
Think of those events now, Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township engineering representative Chad Camburn said earlier this month, as somewhat ancient history. Although the bridge is still closed the good news, he told members of the Board of Commissioners during their Oct. 3 meeting, is that it’s officially important … again.
Members of the Pottstown Area Traffic Group, an organization formed to deal with potential traffic problems when the closure became effective, “now all agree the bridge is important to them and should be re-opened,” said Camburn, who is employed by township engineers Bursich Associates. That includes Pottstown and North Coventry, the two municipalities most affected by the closure.
Moreover, Camburn said, Chester County recognizes it must play a role in refurbishing the bridge, which could take years to be both funded and completed. Cost-sharing alternatives between Montgomery and Chester counties are being explored, he told commissioners.
Commissioners had no public comment on the traffic group’s consensus, but thanked Camburn for the report.
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