Drivers and pedestrians traveling between Pine and Greenwood streets on US209 in Tamaqua have to find alternative routes as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and its contractors have started work to rehabilitate the structurally deficient East Broad Street (US209) bridge.

The work was originally scheduled to begin last Tuesday, May 28, but was delayed due to weather and other issues.

Throughout the duration of the project, US209 will be closed and detoured between Pine and Greenwood streets. The detour will utilize state routes 309 and 54, while the detour for vehicles weighing over 30 or 40 tons for combinations will include state routes 309, 54, 209, 443 and 902.

Tamaqua Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt, Public Works director Rob Jones and code officials spent time yesterday observing traffic patterns.

"So far, we haven't noticed any major issues," said Steigerwalt. "We can tell that many drivers have already adapted to the change."

"Local traffic will adjust to the new traffic pattern," said Jones. "This will create a lot more traffic on side streets."

Metered parking on East Broad Street, adjacent to the project, will be changed from straight to perpendicular parking in the next few days. Parking is also limited to the north side only.

Steigerwalt added that the borough and PennDOT are closely monitoring traffic and will act on any issues that may arise.

In addition to temporary signage throughout Tamaqua, timing settings for traffic signals at both the Cedar/Center streets and East Broad/Greenwood streets intersections were improved to handle more traffic.

"I think the borough is doing all they could," said local business owner Wayne Klingaman, of Klingaman's Office Supply.

He also commented on the possible impact the 18-month project might have concerning customer access and everyday business operations.

"We are still wondering how the overall project will affect our businesses here," said Marion Fetterman, who owns a massage therapy center at 105 East Broad St. "Why can't they get it done in a shorter time?"

"This will definitely cause an inconvenience for senior and disabled residents of both the ABC High Rise and Majestic House Apartments," said Nate Davis. "Many of us use the bridge to access the Turkey Hill, ATM machine, post office and Laundromat."

"We have contingency plans in case of emergency," said Tamaqua Fire Chief Tom Hartz.

"Regarding ambulance calls, we have mutual aid agreements with surrounding crews," said Shawn Phillips, chief engineer, Tamaqua Ambulance. "Lansford will help us cover East End and Dutch Hill; Penn Mahoning and Ryan Township will also assist."

"Many cars are still turning into the work area," said Majestic House resident Alberta Perez. "Some cars are going the wrong way, while others are speeding down the alley south of Pine Street," she added, stressing the increasing amount of seniors and disabled individuals that will now start to use the alley more.

"I think it is a good thing they are doing," said Ruth Schlicher, who lives in the ABC High Rise. "The bridge has been falling apart for years. It had to be replaced."

Adding a little humor, ABC High Rise resident Linda "Sparky" Conrad, said, "We want a zip line put in."

The project involves the rehabilitation of a three-span stone masonry arch bridge carrying US 209 over the Little Schuylkill River.

The original stone masonry arch was built in 1904 and was widened in 1933 to include concrete sidewalks. The two-lane US209 is classified by PennDOT as a minor arterial and carries approximately 6,450 vehicles per day.

The 100-foot-long US209/East Broad Street Bridge falls within the boundaries of, and is considered to be a contributing resource to two historic districts, the Tamaqua Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and a local historic district in Tamaqua.

The rehabilitation structure will maintain the existing out-to-out width of 58 feet, and provide for two traffic lanes, two parking lanes, and two concrete sidewalks. The new bridge will be 16 feet longer.

Following a bridge inspection and analysis conducted in 2009/2010, rehabilitation and partial replacement was recommended. The preliminary design will reintroduce the stone arches. The work was done in coordination with Tamaqua's HARC (Historic Architectural Review Committee), PHMC and Department of Interior Standards.

Some of the work includes the removal of the sidewalk spans, replacement of the deck and beams, bridge widening with pier extensions, installation of new sidewalks and other miscellaneous construction.

Related bridge work will include placing temporary arch supports, complete fill removal and replacement and stone masonry cleaning, repointing and resetting.

Sidewalk structure replacement work will involve maintaining the existing overall out-to-out width of the bridge, arched reinforced concrete beams, taped/curved piers with aesthetic treatments, integral abutments behind existing stone walls, PennDOT standard open bridge railing (black), pier supports and bridge ends. Brick pavers and street lights will also coincide with the current streetscape project.

Blooming Glen Contractors Inc. of Blooming Glen, Bucks County, is the general contractor on the $2,493,465 project.

PennDOT states that the project is anticipated to be complete by November 2014; however, all schedules are subject to change.