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Township Looks To Pols For Bridge Help

HARRISBURG PA – John Rafferty, who represents Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township in the state Senate, and Tom Quigley, who does the same in the state House of Representatives, both have been in politics long enough to know the best people to talk with in any time of need. The township Board of Commissioners hopes the two can chat up a miracle within 60 days.

That’s roughly the time left before Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) says it will close both lanes of the 300-foot-long East High Street bridge over Sanatoga Creek. The bridge, between North Sanatoga Road and Allison Drive, is in need of substantial repairs.

Primary and alternate detours around the coming bridge work on East High Street.

Primary and alternate detours around the coming bridge work.

Back in February, Rafferty, of the 44th Senatorial District, and Quigley, of the 146th House District, promised the township they would craft an appeal to the department, asking that it find some way to keep at least one lane of the bridge open to benefit businesses along the highway. As of last Monday (April 13, 2009), according to township Manager Rodney Hawthorne, their letters were still being drafted.

“Can we get them to hurry it up?,” Commissioner James Phillips asked in frustration during the board’s meeting last week. “We’re running out of time.” Hawthorne said he’d check.

Work was to have begun later this month, but PennDOT pushed its schedule back to an unspecified starting date in June. The state expects to take four to six months to straighten the bridge, fills cracks in its masonry, and install a new retaining barrier. During that time, however, it intends to route traffic entirely around Sanatoga village, diverting it over U.S. Route 422 from Armand Hammer Boulevard in Pottstown to the Sanatoga interchange.

Commissioners fear the bridge closing will dry up through traffic on which some East High Street businesses depend. Local residents have endured previous bridge closings, most recently in 2004, but the township has grown significantly since then. Board members worry newcomers who feel inconvenienced will simply patronize businesses elsewhere.

Traffic Planning and Design Inc., the Sanatoga firm hired by PennDOT to supervise the bridge’s repair, has created a map that shows four alternate routes drivers can take to avoid 422 and by-pass the bridge. All take drivers south from East High Street toward the Schuylkill River along much narrower and less traveled back roads, and won’t be of much help to business owners.

Legislative lobbying by Rafferty and Quigley, commissioners say, may be Lower Pottsgrove’s last, best hope for a change to the traffic plan before the repairs get under way. Rafferty is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.


Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ April 6 meeting):

Map supplied to Lower Pottsgrove by Traffic Planning And Design Inc.

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