The bridge in an October 2010 file photo
SANATOGA PA – Although repair of the 92-year-old and crumbling Rupert Road bridge currently is a low priority for its owner, Montgomery County, the work could get bumped up on its to-do list if Lower Pottsgrove is willing to take ownership of the bridge itself. That could be an idea worth considering, the township Board of Commissioners said last week.
In fact, Commissioner Stephen Klotz suggested during the board’s Dec. 2 (2013) meeting, “it’s probably a no-brainer.”
Traffic on Rupert Road has steadily increased over several years, as more drivers use it as a thoroughfare to and from the Sanatoga interchange of U.S. Route 422. During the same period the steady parade of vehicles, eroding effects of weather, occasional damaging collisions, and natural deterioration of building materials have landed the bridge on state and national lists of “structurally deficient” spans.
The bridge crosses Hartenstine Creek, and is located about a third-of-a-mile north of the intersection of Rupert and East High Street.
Montgomery County is aware of the bridge’s problems but must deal with similar situations elsewhere too, according to a Nov. 22 letter to the board from county Department of Assets and Infrastructure Director Ken Starr. Starr, in talks with township officials, has hinted the county would like to get out of the bridge business altogether and might be willing to make a deal on Rupert, commissioners said.
The township would pay $325,000 toward repairs or replacement, money it has already received from an earlier development project and earmarked for that purpose. The county would cover remaining costs of potentially up to $400,000, commissioners said, but once the work was completed it would hand its bridge deed over to the township. Lower Pottsgrove would then be obligated for all future maintenance.
Depending on how and from what materials the bridge is built or fixed, it might be expected to last another 50 years, Chad Camburn of the township engineering firm, Bursich Associates, speculated.
The “what ifs” of the proposal need further discussion, commissioners decided. They informally created a committee consisting of Klotz, Camburn and incoming Manager Ed Wagner to continue talks with the county and, as Klotz put it, “get more feedback” on Starr’s letter.
If the township faces a choice of accepting ownership with a fully restored bridge, or having to save over many years to accumulate enough money to fix the bridge itself, “well, that’s not much of a choice,” Klotz concluded.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Dec. 2 meeting):