The revitalization project for the Thomas J. McCall Memorial Bridge (Route 209) which spans the Lehigh River, Weissport borough, and Lehigh Canal has gotten underway.
Until now, there hasn't been much impact to commuters.
That changes drastically on Friday, June 6.
Come June 6, an unpopular detour for the project goes into effect, but it's possibly the only logical detour route.
The detour sends Route 209 traffic through Bridge Street in Weissport. Although some provisions have occurred to ease the burden on motorists, such as a stop light at Bridge Street going into Weissport, it's still going to be quite a headache, especially during certain parts of the day.
Morning and afternoon commuters will have to give themselves plenty of extra time to reach their destinations. Residents along some rural roads such as Mountain Road in Mahoning Township will have to be wary of increased traffic flow by drivers who opt for those routes to avoid the construction project.
The detour is anticipated to last about three months.
The project includes deck repairs, new latex modified concrete overlay on the existing deck, new integral approach slabs at each end of the bridge, replacing all 17 deck joints, new protective fence along both barriers, replacing drainage scuppers and installing new downspout systems.
The entire superstructure is scheduled to be cleaned and repainted, plus workers will stiffen gusset plates in the truss spans, add floor beam cover plates and girder stiffeners to increase capacity.
The bridge will be finished off with a new latex modified concrete overlay on the existing deck.
The project came about because of a rating of bridges in Pennsylvania.
The bridge was built in 1938 and last rehabilitated in 1981.
In 2007 during a routine inspection, the bridge was given the fifth-worst score of all state-owned deck truss highway bridges.
A deck truss highway bridge is the type which collapsed in Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2007. That bridge spanned the Mississippi River.
There's no question repairs are needed to the McCall bridge. The major concern is the detour and what's going to happen while the detour is in effect.
Especially in late afternoons, traffic is constantly backed up on the bridge and on roads leading to it. These back-ups will become worse on Route 443, Bridge Street in Lehighton, and especially Bridge Street in Weissport.
Hopefully there will be increased police patrols to keep an eye on such things as road rage, drivers who dart through changing lights too late, and those who fail to yield the right of way when they are supposed to – and hand out tickets accordingly.
If crashes occur on the detour route, access to them could become a problem.
If you can avoid the McCall Bridge and surrounding routes after June 6, it might be a good idea to do so.
The project is needed, but we can't help but wonder if the detour was given enough thought. Only time will tell.
By RON GOWER