A meeting called Monday morning to air concerns about the Thomas J. McCall Memorial Bridge resurfacing project resulted in positive dialogue by local officials and some good news.
The good news is that the project is on schedule and will be completed by Sept. 5. That means only five more weeks of the frustrating traffic jams.
The McCall Bridge carries traffic on Route 209 between Lehighton and Franklin Township. It spans the Lehigh River, Weissport borough and the Lehigh Canal.
The meeting was called by State Rep. Doyle Heffley. Present were borough council members, police officers and ambulance personnel from the area.
The detour, which took effect June 6, sent southbound Route 209 traffic through Weissport but retained one lane of northbound traffic flow over the McCall Bridge.
There's been a lot of complaining about the detour, during which long backups of traffic occur virtually every day. But in all fairness the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can be commended for doing all it could to keep inconvenience to a minimum.
For starters, the work on the bridge actually began in early May. The three-lane bridge was reduced to two lanes, but it wasn't closed to traffic until more pronounced resurfacing work occurred.
Second, the detour that was established had traffic lights coordinated to coincide with the new flow as much as possible. Of course backups still occurred, but they would have been worse without proper planning. Also, traffic tie-ups occur even when no construction is going on.
And third, a special lane was set up for emergency responders in the event of a fire or some other life-threatening situation.
Calvin Ulshafer, project manager for PennDOT, said referring to the detour, "At least there is a secondary option. Do you know how many bridges I do in towns where there is no secondary option? Nobody wants to deal with inconvenience, but it's work that had to be done."
As an example, a number of years ago a major reconstruction project occurred on Route 248 which resulted in a 20-plus mile detour.
PennDOT crews, Ulshafer said, should also be commended.
"This is the only bridge in the state getting a 90-day turnaround," he said. "They are out there with jackhammers seven days a week in the hot sun."
Accomplishing the Sept. 5 deadline indicates this, too, is an accurate statement.
There's no question the detour was a sore spot for many motorists, especially those who had to use it daily.
If you think it couldn't be worse, try coping with big city traffic, such as at the George Washington Bridge in New York City, at high volume times. Then you'll see the situation in the Weissport area wasn't so bad.
By RON GOWER