water and bridge

Road Blocks

I live about seven minutes away from my high school by car. Every day I would drive to school and cross over a little, one-lane, iron bridge from my town into the town where my high school resides. When I arrived home after my finishing my freshman year of college it was to my great dismay to see that this little bridge was closed. A sign was posted that stated the bridge would be open again in 2020, my graduation year. Three to four years worth of renovation, all for this little bridge. How could it possibly take so long to fix this minor piece of infrastructure?

However, this is not the first time the bridge has been closed.  Previously the bridge would reopen after a few months of repairs, then close again to restart the cycle. So why not just make a full repair then? Why wait until now.

I was aggravated that my drive across town doubled in duration, so I decided to look into it. Here is what I discovered:

The bridge is technically considered part of Fetters Mill Historic District.

The bridge spans both Lower Moreland Township and the Borough of Bryn Athyn.

Why do these things matter?

Buildings and other structures that are parts of a historic district have very particular rules guarding the changes which can be made to them. The rebuilding or repair process is lengthy. It involves a full plan to be developed and submitted before any construction can begin. These plans must include a great understanding of the historical context, opinions from the public and explanations of the ways in which the most original content will be preserved. Every step of the process must be carefully documented in order to assure that maximum historical value is sustained and protected. A posting by the Borough of Bryn Athyn announced that the main truss will be removed and rehabilitated off site whilst other pieces will have to be replaced entirely to accommodate new weight limits and other PennDOT safety requirements.

In addition, the bridge spans over two townships which means that they must work in conjunction to ensure the bridges repairs. While the Federal Highway Administration and PennDOT are the main contributors to this multimillion dollar project, both townships involved must contribute the remaining balance in order for the project to be put into action. Townships have the ability to distribute funds in ways in which they deem fit to maintain the infrastructure necessary to keep things running smoothly. The bridge may not be the most pressing matter for either township so this can cause delays in funding.

This project does not simply involve someone hiringe a contractor to build a new bridge. It involves the Federal Highway Administration, PennDot, Lower Moreland Township, the Borough of Bryn Athyn, the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office and more. All of these groups must collaborate to renovate this tiny, little bridge.

So after a little research I have a greater understanding of why repairing the tiny bridge is going to take so long. Now I can see why little has been done to the surrounding buildings in the past and why they have put off the bridge repairs for so long.