Consultants from different areas of the 903 bridge project, in Jim Thorpe, met Wednesday to discuss possible historical and cultural sites that could be impacted with the project. There are numerous historical sites in Jim Thorpe and the proposed new bridge would be constructed near all of these sites.

Representatives from URS, A.D. Marble & Company, PennDOT, Jim Thorpe Borough Council, Carbon County Commissioners, Lehigh Gorge State Park, and Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor discussed this project and its impact on these sites.

"Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act states that a project with federal funding needs to take into consideration the effects of this project on historic resources," said Kristina Thompson, Architectural Historian for PennDOT, districts 4 and 5. Thompson said, "This meeting is to provide the opportunity for dialogue between the consulting parties based on the historic resources and the potential impact on them."

The research and discussion of the impact to the historical, archeological, and cultural sites are all a part of the environmental process for this project. Heather Heeter, Senior Project Manager from PennDOT said, this meeting is a part of the environmental process. The consultants are part of the project and they get together and discuss the impacts and ideas for the project and work towards solutions. "We hope to wrap up the environmental process by this summer/fall," stated Heeter. Once this process is finished the project can continue forward.

The main historical, archeological, and cultural sites that surround the bridge project area include: two railroads, the Old Mauch Chunk Historic District, the Center Street Historic District, the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and the Lehigh River. Two important sites along the Lehigh Canal are the river lock and the lock keepers site foundation. The projected new bridge will be built close to the historic lock and lock keepers site.

Rich Ames of URS (engineering consultant) discussed that the bridge will not permanently impact the historical and cultural resources. The bridge will be structured to not interfere with the historic lock site or any of the other sites including the railways. There will be temporary disruption for the trail along the river while construction is underway, but after the construction all of the sites will be back to normal.

"The new bridge will be an extension of North Street," stated Ames. It is projected to begin in 2013 and take about 2 1/2 years to complete. It was also discussed that once the new bridge is complete the current bridge will be removed. Other issues and ideas about railing, sidewalks, and lighting for the bridge were discussed. The general public that attended was given a chance to ask questions.