Carbon County officials are moving forward with the replacement of a nearly century old bridge in Towamensing Township.

During the county commissioners meeting on Thursday, the board voted to ratify a notice to proceed with the final design of bridge 16, located along Koch Road in Towamensing Township, as per the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Officials have been working at replacing the bridge, which is a 60-foot, single-lane bridge that spans Pohopoco Creek, since since 1999.

Commissioner William O'Gurek explained that the replacement of the bridge has been an ongoing concern for the board since it was brought to their attention over a decade ago, when a bus company raised concerns about the integrity of the structure. At that time, the county lowered the weight limit to five tons.

Since then, the commissioners have worked at completing plans for the 96-year-old bridge's replacement.

In 2008, Judy Borger, director of the 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 the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for services associated with the replacement of Bridge 16.

On Feb. 3, 2011, a public hearing was held to discuss the design concept, answer questions, and accept input about the project.

On Aug. 4, 2011, the board the county approved a resolution and supplemental reimbursement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for final design, utility and right-of-way costs associated with the replacement of Carbon County Bridge 16, located on Koch Road in Towamensing Township. The reimbursement includes $589,600 from the Federal Highway Administration and $147,400 from the state Liquid Fuels fund.

Last November, 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.

Towamensing Township officials also brought it to the board's attention that there is an historical ordinance in place, that states before any demolition can take place, a 90-day notice must be provided to the township. 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. This option is not feasible, O'Gurek had stated, due to costs associated with the project. The final design will mimic the architecture of the current bridge.

As final design work begins, the county will now seek during funding to help cover the costs for the project through the Rural Transportation Planning Organization program.

The board also acted on the following items:

Ÿ Approve the training site letter of agreement between the county and ROI Opportunities for Seniors Corporation for the Senior Community Service Employment Program for placement of on the job training participants at the Carbon County Parks department at Mauch Chunk Lake Park. It will be for a period of July 1 through Sept. 30.

Ÿ Approve an extension in the time Mahoning Township has to review the plans for the Packerton Yards Business Park until July 31.

Ÿ Open bids for four Community Development Block Grant projects road resurfacing in Franklin Township, Nesquehoning and Parryville, and a water tower repair in Weatherly. Bids for the road resurfacing projects were tabled for two weeks so they could be reviewed. Bids for the project in Weatherly were rejected and will be readvertised.