DAMASCUS TWP. - The New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission has approved a roughly $1 million project for emergency repairs on the Skinners Falls Bridge spanning the Delaware River and connecting Pennsylvania and New York, Laurie Ramie of the Upper Delaware Council reported.
Leeward Construction was awarded the bid and will start work next month with an aim of having the span on state Route 1002 In Milanville open to light traffic by the end of the summer, about Aug. 29, said Mike Taluto, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
The project's cost, $1,053,350, will be split between Pennsylvania and New York states.
PennDOT said the 470-foot bridge will have a four-ton weight limit.
The anticipated reopening of the single-lane span, which dates back to 1901 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is good news to businesses and others on both sides of the river.
“We are very happy that it will once again be open,” said Vanessa DeGori of the nearby Milanville General Store, noting how business has dropped off since the December closing.
Many of the store's customers use the bridge, and more than 2,000 people signed petitions to sway officials to reopen the span.
DeGori said she believed the petitions – one at the store and one online – were vital in the process.
“I don't think (officials) realized how many people rely on (the bridge),” she said.
Upwards of 1,000 drivers had used the bridge daily before it closed in December after failing inspection due to some of its stringers, which help to hold up the structure, being twisted and out of line.
Rick Lander of Lander's River Trips, on the opposite side of the bridge in Narrowsburg, said he was happy the span is being repaired but he wished the timing was better, as the construction work will happen during his business season.
“It creates a hardship all around,” Lander said of the bridge not being open, noting it negatively impacts tourism, emergency services, his business and the general store. “A lot of my customers use that convenience store.”
The reopening of the bridge also will provide a more expeditious route for emergency personnel, many of whom travel in their personal vehicles.
While fire trucks and ambulances would not meet the weight limit, emergency responders in their private vehicles would be able to respond quicker to anyone in danger while swimming in the falls, according to Damascus Township Supervisor Steve Adams.
Meanwhile, to help assure that oversized vehicles don’t attempt to cross the bridge and cause further damage, two overhead clearance bar portal frames, commonly referred to as “headache bars,” will be installed, according to Ramie.
Municipal leaders, residents, local business owners and travelers were frustrated when the bridge was shut down last year for the third time since 2010 and no timetable was given for when its condition would be addressed.
Lander also said he is concerned with the detour route that sends motorists to the Narrowsburg Bridge, which also is down to one lane and due for a major overhaul starting in 2017.
The rehabilitation of that bridge, which dates back to 1953, will begin next spring.
The cost will be $11,664,884 for construction and inspection, which excludes a 2016 expense of $780,000 for the final design phase, Ramie said.
The cost of that project also will be evenly split between Pennsylvania and New York.