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State Says No To Keeping Bridge Open

As it was then, it may soon be again. Emergency repairs to the East High Street bridge a few years ago made it impassable. PennDOT expects to close it again this June for reconstruction.

Emergency repairs to the East High Street bridge a few years ago made it impassable. PennDOT expects to close it again this June for reconstruction, despite Lower Pottsgrove's repeated objections.

SANATOGA PA – A state highway official in King of Prussia consumed two pages and 10 paragraphs Tuesday (April 21, 2009) to essentially say one word: “no.”

Lester Toaso, chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 6 office, has denied – for now, at least –  Lower Pottsgrove ‘s request that one lane of the East High Street bridge at North Sanatoga Road remain open to traffic during repairs the department will begin this summer. The township fears the bridge closing of several months may cripple or kill businesses along the route that rely on its steady stream of commuters.

“We certainly understand the desire to keep traffic flowing on the bridge during construction, and I wish we were able to safely accommodate a travel lane,” Toaso wrote in a letter to the township’s two state legislators, a copy of which was distributed during Thursday’s (April 23, 2009) meeting of the township Board of Commissioners. “Unfortunately, we cannot,” he added, citing the bridge’s “structural uncertainty” during repairs.

Board members weren’t buying it.

“I find it very hard to believe they can’t keep even a portion of it open,” Commissioner James Phillips said.  “It’s like they’re saying ‘sorry, we don’t care, that’s just the way it is’.” His colleagues authorized Phillips to draft a response on their behalf.

With better construction management and financial incentives for contractors to finish early, Commissioner Stephen Klotz added, PennDOT could minimize the closure and speed the repairs. “It’s not that hard to do,” Klotz noted; “they do it all the time.”

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, 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. Board members worry potential customers who feel inconvenienced will simply patronize businesses elsewhere.

The bridge was last closed for repairs during 2004.

Legislative lobbying by the township’s state senator, John Rafferty,  and Tom Quigley, in the state House of Representatives, was seen by commissioners as Lower Pottsgrove’s last, best hope for a change to the traffic plan before repairs started. Rafferty is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, which has PennDOT oversight. Toaso’s letter was a response to an April 2 inquiry signed by both Rafferty and Quigley.


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