SANATOGA PA – The currently closed-to-traffic Pruss Hill Road bridge on the east side of Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township will be reopened to vehicles within coming weeks, the Board of Commissioners agreed Monday (Oct. 24, 2011). Its use, however, is accompanied by severe restrictions and the prospect that, in the near future, the township could pay as much as $360,000 to fully repair the structure.
Commissioners decided to spend between $10,000 and $15,000 now to let drivers cross the bridge that was barricaded Sept. 16 because engineers declared it to be structurally unsound. It has remain closed since, and traffic that normally would have traveled Pruss Hill to and from Rupert Road and its connection to U.S. Route 422 has been detoured down adjacent highways.
Work to get the bridge opened will start today (Tuesday, Oct. 25), the board was told, but is not expected to be completed until later next month.
The reopening comes with several limits:
- Traffic will be restricted to vehicles weighing 5 tons or less. That allows passage for most cars and pick-up trucks. It eliminates large trucks and school buses.
- Concrete barriers and guide rails will be erected to reduce traffic to one lane for both directions. They will be accompanied by a new set of up to 12 signs along the road and at the bridge that warn of the weight limits and changed pattern.
- Drivers on either side of the bridge will be required to come to a complete stop before crossing, and must check to ensure no opposing vehicles are en route before proceeding.
- The bridge must be reinspected annually, and its weight limit may be reduced even further if its deterioration increases.
The restrictions, according to township Manager Rodney Hawthorne, are similar to those imposed several years ago on the Kauffman Road bridge south of Pottsgrove High School.
Commissioners and Hawthorne said they believed the bridge reopening would satisfy the repeated requests of residents in the nearby Woodgate housing community to make Pruss Hill Road accessible again. It should also reduce speeding and increased traffic that has been a complaint of residents on Schaffer Road, one of the detour routes, since the bridge closed.
“I personally think this is a good idea,” board Vice President Bruce Foltz said. President Jonathan Spadt agreed: “It’s a good compromise for local residents,” he added.
The restricted reopening wasn’t the board’s only option.
A representative of Traffic Planning and Design Inc. (TPD), the Sanatoga-based highway engineering firm that studied the bridge and recommended its closure, said a full repair of the bridge was possible, at a price estimated at about $360,000. “That’s certainly something we won’t have this year, but it may be something for the future,” Hawthorne suggested.
A second choice, TPD said, was to replace only the bridge deck slab at a cost of about $100,000. Its replacement would permit two-way traffic and heavier vehicles, but the structural “bones” of the 85-year-old span over Sanatoga Creek at the Pruss Hill Pond dam would remain unchanged. That amount isn’t in the township’s 2012 budget either, Hawthorne said.
The third choice – apparently one none of the politicians wanted to consider – was to keep the bridge closed.
On its surface the bridge appears sturdy enough but underneath, as seen from the creekbed, some of its structural steel is rusting and broken. Cracks in its concrete construction vary from a fraction of an inch to several inches deep, and at least one of its supporting components is cracked from top to bottom.
Related (to Pruss Hill Road and its bridge):
- Pruss Hill Bridge To Reopen, But As One-Lane Only
- The Problems At Pruss Hill Lurk Beneath Its Bridge
- Pruss Hill Bridge Might Re-Open With Weight Limit
- Bridge Damage Closes Pruss Hill Road ‘Indefinitely’
- Commissioners OK Pruss Hill Road Accidents Study
- Bridge, Guardrail Study Proposed For Pruss Hill Road
- Stop Sign May Be Answer For Pruss Hill Road Crashes
- Pruss Hill Road Guardrail Now Repaired
- Use Caution Driving Pruss Hill Road
- Car Upended On Pruss Hill Road
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Oct. 24):