The proposed State Route 903 bridge replacement project in Jim Thorpe is moving forward.

During a meeting of the consulting parties for the project on Thursday morning, representatives from PennDOT, URS, and A.D. Marble and Company, the agencies working on the engineering and design of the bridge, presented an updated look at the proposed design of the estimated $30 million bridge project.

Attending the meeting were the Carbon County commissioners; Jim Thorpe borough officials; and representatives from Lehigh Gorge State Park and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

Kris Thompson, PennDOT District 5-0 architectural historian, welcomed everyone to the session, which discussed the design and interpretation mitigation stipulations of the project; as well as ways to minimize adverse effects of the area surrounding the location of the new bridge.

She explained that the meeting was taking place to comply with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires all federally-funded projects proposed for areas that are registered as historic be reviewed. Findings of the review showed that the project would have an adverse effect on the first lock of the remnants of the Lehigh Canal, which is located below the bridge.

Other historical, archaeological, and cultural sites that surround the bridge project that will be impacted include: two railroads, the Old Mauch Chunk Historic District, the Center Street Historic District, the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and the Lehigh River.

Rich Ames, an engineering consultant with URS, discussed the proposed bridge design and asked for input on finishing details, including the design of the retaining wall along Route 209, the piers below the bridge, fencing and roadway barriers for the pedestrian sidewalk, and lighting fixtures.

The group provided some suggestions on making the bridge as aesthetically pleasing; as well as functional.

In addition to building the bridge, widening a portion of Route 209 will take place to allow for turning lanes.

Heather J. Heeter, senior project manager at PennDOT Engineering District 5-0, then explained that the project is in final design so information from the meeting would be used to help wrap up the last details.

The new 963-foot bridge will be located almost 1,000 feet upstream from the current bridge's location. It will connect directly with North Street on the east side of the borough. Projections show that the specifications for the project should be done by June 2013 and bid openings will take place in December 2013.

Heeter added that PennDOT hopes to break ground on the project in the spring of 2014, with a completion date of 2016. After the completion of the new bridge, an additional year of work will take place to demolish the old bridge and restore the area to its natural surroundings.

Heeter noted that traffic below the bridge via water, rail and trail will not be impacted during the construction because plans with each entity are being worked out.