Pruss Hill Bridge Might Re-Open With Weight Limit

SANATOGA PA – Pruss Hill Road, now blocked across Sanatoga Creek west of Schaeffer Road because of a deteriorating bridge there, could be re-opened to traffic if engineers working for Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township determine the bridge can tolerate vehicles weighing 5,000 pounds or less, the Board of Commissioners learned Monday (Oct. 3, 2011).

If a weight limit is imposed – and the township won’t know that possibility until Oct. 24 “at the earliest,” Manager Rodney Hawthorne said – it would allow passage of most passenger cars (estimated to weigh between 2,400 and 4,700 pounds) and a few pick-up trucks (estimated at between 4,500 and 8,500 pounds). It would exclude most specialty trucks and school buses, the weights of which start at about 10,000 pounds.

The bridge currently is barricaded by cones and pile of gravel

Sanatoga-based Traffic Planning and Design Inc. (TPD), which discovered problems with the Pruss Hill Road bridge and recommended its closure 19 days ago, has been asked by Hawthorne to produce and help him analyze reports on whether the bridge can be re-opened on the limited basis. “We’re going to have to study it, and I’ll need to talk with several people,” Hawthorne reported.

The township also has promised to keep area residents better informed on the subject, using its website. Commissioners and Hawthorne were chided Monday by Rivendell Lane resident P.J. McGill for failing to earlier notify the public of the bridge’s closure. As of mid-day Monday, the website noted those affected could find “further updates … posted on (its) page.”

Nearby property owners, particularly those in the Woodgate housing community a half-mile east of the bridge, have complained about both the unexpected and unannounced closure and the inconvenience of its accompanying detour. Several were in the municipal building conference audience Monday night, although only McGill addressed the board.

Pruss Hill Road remains open for local traffic up to barricades on both sides of the almost century-old bridge that fronts the waterfall-like outflow of Pruss Hill Pond into Sanatoga Creek. TPD was hired by commissioners during August to look at ways to make the road and bridge less accident-prone. Its preliminary assessment led to closing the bridge Sept. 16.

Specifics of the bridge’s current condition, which reportedly was “determined to be so deteriorated it is deemed unsafe to remain open until repairs are made,” were not offered during the meeting. There was no discussion among board members about fixing or replacing the bridge, although that may come after TPD issues a full report on its study, for which the township is paying $7,500. There also was no discussion of how, if at all, the vehicle weight limit might be enforced if permitted. That, too, could be announced later.

The biggest problem facing the bridge, as well as guard rails running for about 100 feet along the road’s shoulders from either side, is driver carelessness, Hawthorne repeated. Accidents, caused mostly by speeding or recklessness, occur there quarterly and sometimes more frequently.

Some offenders are caught, and their insurers charged for the damage, Hawthorne said; some aren’t. “If the police catch up with them, we make them pay,” he said. Otherwise, the township gets stuck with the bill.

Related (to Pruss Hill Road and its bridge):

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Oct. 3):

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