Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will display plans on the rehabilitation of the Route 209 Thomas McCall Bridge and seeks the public's input at a meeting to be held Thursday, Jan. 5, at the Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Company.
The public officials meeting will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the open house plans display at 7 p.m.
The McCall Bridge, built in 1938, carries nearly 24,000 cars a day over the borough of Weissport, the Lehigh River, the Lehigh Canal and the Norfolk Southern rail line.
The bridge is due for rehabilitation within the next three to five years. It was last rehabilitated in 1981.
Last October, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Labor Federation held a news conference at the Lehighton entrance to bridge to highlight the McCall Bridge as one of the state's "troubled bridges."
At that news conference, NPALF, noted that the deck condition rating was fair and the superstructure condition rating was poor, while the substructure condition rating was deemed structurally deficient, with a sufficiency rating of 36 out of 100.
Part of the reason the deck received such a poor rating is because it was erected as a three-lane structure and has difficulty handling today's traffic volume. Daily traffic jams occur on the bridge.
According to the transportation component of the recently completed Central Carbon County Comprehensive Plan, traffic volumes will increase by 17.3 percent in the area over the next 20 years.
Traffic consultant for the CCCCOP Nicole Kline, provided key information about the McCall bridge. She said that bridge is scheduled for rehabilitation at a cost of $23 million. She said the bridge should be replaced with a six-lane bridge at a cost of $60 million.
Kline said that a bridge would be overused with 15,000 vehicles, plus it has traffic lights at either end to further slow traffic. Kline said that the $23 million estimated to repair the bridge should be used instead toward the cost of a new bridge.
She had noted that if the old bridge is refurbished, it will mean that motorists will not see a new bridge for a much longer time because of the cost. She added that the there should be a strong focus on getting the money to replace the bridge.
The bridge has been in the news for years because of its deficiencies, such as in 2009, when steel supports were installed to replace temporary wooden stabilizers to help maintain the safety of the bridge.
At that time, former state Rep. Keith McCall had advocated strongly to PennDOT to immediately replace the bridge. He said it would be a much better investment to replace the bridge, which would offer peace of mind to motorists and eliminate a daily traffic bottleneck.
McCall had called for the bridge to be moved to the top of the priority list.
In 2007 during a routine inspection, the bridge was given the fifth worst score of all state-owned deck truss highway bridges in the state. The rating was a score of 29 of a possible 100. PennDOT said at that time, the bridge received such a low score because it was erected as a three-lane structure in 1938 and had difficulty handling today's traffic volume.
The McCall bridge was named after Keith McCall's father who died on Christmas Eve in 1981 of a heart attack. At the time, Thomas J. McCall was a state representative. Through Thomas McCall's efforts, the deck of the bridge was replaced in 1981. In 1982, Weissport Borough pushed with success to have the bridge named after him.
The McCall bridge has the same type of deck truss construction as the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, resulting in 14 deaths.
Former Rep. McCall had said in 2007, that the bridge is structurally deficient and is functionally obsolete. He had said that the bridge was not designed for the amount of traffic it's handling.
PennDOT noted in 2007, that replacing the three-lane bridge with a four-lane bridge would cost an estimated $45 million.