Weissport school and borough officials had the opportunity Monday to discuss their concerns about a proposed detour through Weissport with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation engineers.
Mark Marek, director of marketing, community relations and strategic research at BHA Services in Weissport, and Tim Rehrig, member of Weissport Council, met with Heather J. Heeter, senior project manager; and Chris Surovy, traffic signal manager, both with PennDOT, in an attempt to work out solutions to potential problems that Marek and Weissport Council believe will occur during the detour that will be associated with the reconstruction of the McCall Bridge next summer.
Also attending the session was state Rep. Doyle Heffley who facilitated the meeting between PennDOT, school and borough officials.
Heeter explained that the detour is anticipated to take place on Bridge Street in Weissport in 2014 during the period that children are not attending school to eliminate problems with school bus transportation systems.
During the detour, traffic will be one way through Weissport for the entire two lanes.
Marek said that his concern was that BHA offers a six week summer program that will be going on during the detour that will affect his students, their parents who drive them and school districts from throughout the area who bus students to the school.
Marek said that BHA is Weissport's biggest employer and that approximately 60 people use the building on a daily basis, with children coming to school by passenger car, full size school bus or mini van. He noted that presently the building is housing a K-12 autism program.
"Our summer program will have 25 to 30 students," noted Marek. "There will be a lot of traffic generated to this area during the detour and I am concerned about my students' safety."
Marek said his major concern was that traffic will be routed one way and that will put the children exiting and entering school buses in traffic lanes.
Marek said there is no designated school zone in front of the school and traffic does not slow down for school buses.
"At times the buses are stacked up in front of the school waiting to discharge students or pick them up," said Marek. "It would be helpful if there were periods when there would be "no parking" in front of the school to help load and unload students.
Marek said the biggest problem is the line of sight distance is practically zero coming across the Bridge Street bridge.
Heeter said that she had no control over what borough officials would do or not do about parking issues on Bridge Street and suggested that Marek make that request to Weissport Council.
Marek said that a business exists across the street and that he did not want to impact the business, so he would request the parking spaces to be designated for the school for an hour in the morning and an hour at departure to lessen the impact on the local business.
Rehrig asked Marek to put his request in writing so that it can be brought up and discussed at a public meeting.
Rehrig said that council is also making a request to PennDOT to place a temporary traffic light at the intersection of Franklin and Bridge Street that will only be activated when residents want to enter Bridge Street.
Marek asked if PennDOT might find it in their budget to hire a crossing guard during the six weeks of summer school.
"I know that the borough is cash strapped," said Marek. "I wouldn't consider approaching them."
Heeter said she would check to see if there were any funds that could be appropriated for a crossing guard.
Heeter said that the detour will take approximately two months; however, the entire construction project will take two years.
"Most of the reconstruction of the bridge will be done underneath the bridge," she said. "There will be periods of jacking when there will be traffic delays. This is a residential area so there will be small pockets when the traffic will be held up which will be determined by the contractor."
Heffley questioned whether Pennsylvania State Police might be called upon during the detour to assist with traffic.
Heeter had explained that state police would want local police to be a presense.
Heffley also suggested that school officials have children dropped off on Franklin Street, but Marek said that children in the autism spectrum would require adult supervision from the bus to the school.
Heffley also asked if there was a way for buses to make a loop on borough streets and enter the rear of the property.
Marek said that there is no entrance at the rear of the school.
The project involves structural rehabilitation of the 16-span structure, which carries Route 209 traffic across the Lehigh River, Lehigh Canal, Norfolk Southern Railroad and other local roads.
The rehabilitation includes deck repairs: new latex modified concrete overlay on the existing deck, new integral approach slabs at each end of the bridge, replacement of all 17 deck joints, new protective fence along both barriers, replacement of drainage scuppers, new downspout systems and superstructure repairs.
It will also include cleaning and repainting the entire superstructure, stiffening gusset plates in the truss spans and adding floorbeam cover plates and girder stiffeners to increase capacity; and substructure repairs: replace/rehabilitate bearings, repair deteriorated concrete on piers and abutments, reconstruct pier four and place scout protection at piers two and three.