SANATOGA PA – Lower Pottsgrove would prefer no more surprises.
The municipality learned in November (2019) from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that, surprise!, it owned the bridge on North Adams Street (at top) that crosses Sprogel’s Run just south of Buchert Road. The township Board of Commissioners and Manager Ed Wagner acknowledged they were caught off guard.
PennDOT earlier identified the bridge as “unregistered,” which according to Bursich Associates engineering representative Chad Camburn meant no one – not Lower Pottsgrove, the Borough of Pottstown, Montgomery County, the state, or any other entity – claimed it. Wagner, during the board’s Monday (Dec. 2) meeting, admitted the township thought the bridge belonged to Pottstown.
But after an Oct. 31 inspection report found the 60-year-old structure had dangerously deteriorated, further state research determined the township is its historical owner. As a result, fixing the bridge officially becomes Lower Pottsgrove’s responsibility.
Now the township is conducting a survey to find if ownership of any other spans within or near its borders is also unknown. Public Works Director John Fogel “is preparing an inventory” of bridges “to identify if any others may be unregistered,” Camburn stated in a report to commissioners.
He added the township has already heeded PennDOT requirements to narrow travel lanes across the bridge by about three feet on both shoulders, reducing potential weight stress on “the second beams from each end of the bridge.” It also authorized, posted, and expects the police department will enforce a 15-ton weight limit for vehicles that cross the bridge, “to protect the remaining beams from damage.”
Those restrictions are likely to give the bridge another 10 or so years of usable life, Camburn said. In the longer run, though, it will need to be replaced.
The expense can be significant. Lower Pottsgrove paid about $325,000 of the $900,000 estimated cost to replace its Rupert Road bridge over Hartenstine Creek and re-open it last December (2018). The North Adams bridge has a similar “box” construction design but of different dimensions, and probably would cost “slightly” more to replace, Camburn said after the meeting.
The township also must, eventually, replace the Pruss Hill Road bridge that it owns … possibly sooner that it will consider North Adams. Traffic over Pruss Hill is destined to grow heavier with completion of the nearby Spring Valley Farms housing community at North Pleasant View and Bliem roads, as well with the anticipated development of former airport property off North Charlotte Street in neighboring New Hanover Township.
Photo from Bursich Associates