Carbon County officials approved the state's recommended contractor for a county bridge project.

During the commissioners' meeting this week, the board voted to notify the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that the commissioners concur with the low bidder, Fabcor Inc. of Jessup, for the bridge 16 replacement project. Bridge 16 is a single-lane bridge along Koch Road in Towamensing Township.

PennDOT opened the bids electronically on March 14. Fabcor bid $1.35 million, 6.5 percent lower than initial estimates, Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said Thursday. Other bids ranged from $1.449 million to $1.965 million.

Commissioner William O'Gurek said the project will be 80 percent covered by the federal government and 20 percent by the state.

But, he added, the county had to pay over $700,000 out of its liquid fuels fund for design work, as well as secure six right-of-way approvals from properties and work with the township's historical ordinance to see if the bridge met criteria for historical purposes.

Commissioner Chairman Wayne Nothstein, chairman said the project is expected to begin this year.

No timeline of how long the project will take has been announced, he said.

Nothstein said that it is amazing to see how the cost to replace a bridge has escalated in a few years.

The county replaced a similar length bridge in Penn Forest Township in 2008, after Hurricane Ivan tore through the area in 2004 and destroyed the bridge. The cost to replace that bridge came in at just over $519,000.

One issue that Nothstein said will be alleviated with the new bridge is for emergency personnel. Currently, the bridge weight limit is 5 tons, meaning that fire apparatus are too heavy to travel it safely.

There will also be a detour during the replacement project. Gerhard said he believed he read that it will be a 4 1/2-mile detour, but couldn't confirm the exact detour length at this time.

Deteriorating arches

Officials have been working at replacing the 60-foot bridge that spans Pohopoco Creek, since 1999 after a bus company raised concerns about the integrity of the structure.

At that time, the county lowered the weight limit to 5 tons.

In 2008, Judy Borger, director of Carbon County Planning and Development, testified to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Rural Transportation Planning Organization on the integrity of the bridge and raised some concerns, including the narrow width, deteriorating arches and worn decks.

In 2009, the county approved an engineering agreement, developed by PennDOT, for services associated with the replacement of the Koch Road bridge.

A public hearing was held to discuss the design concept and accept input about the project.

On Aug. 4, 2011, the board approved a resolution and supplemental reimbursement agreement with PennDOT for final design, utility and right-of-way costs associated with the replacement of the bridge.

The reimbursement includes $589,600 from the Federal Highway Administration and $147,400 from the state Liquid Fuels fund.

In November 2011, the commissioners voted to amend the contract with Carbon Engineering of Summit Hill to prepare the specifications for the replacement project. That contract was expected to not exceed $737,000 $270,000 for preliminary design work, $305,000 for final design work, $108,000 for utilities and $54,000 for rights of way.

Historical ordinance

A historical ordinance in Towamensing Township requires a 90-day notice must be provided to the township before any work begins. That prompted the township's historical society to raise the flag with regard to the county's plans, and a subsequent review by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission ruled the bridge was not eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The township then asked the county to consider keeping the bridge in place for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge and constructing a second bridge for vehicular traffic. The commissioners said this option is not cost-effective. The final design will mimic the architecture of the current bridge.

In January 2013, the board voted to adopt a resolution regarding the acquisition of necessary right of way for reconstruction of the bridge, authorize Nothstein to sign a waiver of rights concerning a portion of property necessary for the project and authorize Keystone Acquisition Service Corp. to forward letters of authorization for acquisition of the rights of way to the property owners on behalf of the county.

In September 2013, the commissioners approved an agreement with PPL Electric Utilities for the relocation of utilities relative to the replacement of the bridge. The estimated cost was $33,717 and is reimbursable under PennDOT grants for the project.

In other matters, the commissioners acted on the following items:

Ÿ Rescind the authorization to advertise for request for proposals for engineering services for the Lehighton/Weissport/East Penn section of the D&L Connectivity project due to revisions needed in the proposal packet.

Ÿ Award Waste Management of Pen Argyl the contract for refuse collection for a three-year term at a cost of $81,492; and a one-year contract for single stream recycling at 3,796.

Ÿ Approve an amendment in the agreement with Carbon Engineering Inc. revising fees for professional services relative to technical assistance in connection with subdivision review responsibilities. The hourly rate is $101 and should not exceed $6,000 per review.

Ÿ Adopt two resolutions recognizing Peter Wyatt Phelan of Lehighton and Patrick Iezzoni of Summit Hill for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.