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Weissport asked to approve PennDOT construction easements to begin bridge work

Published February 05. 2013 05:01PM

Weissport Council on Monday sifted through correspondence that will have a big impact on Weissport residents and motorists traveling through Weissport during the period when the Thomas McCall Route 209 bridge will be under renovation next year.

Gene Kershner, council president, provided an overview of the two requests from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and a third from UGI Utilities and then under the recommendation of council member Tim Rehrig, presented one request at a time for council's approval.

PennDOT is seeking a temporary construction easement to use less than one-tenth of an acre of property under the bridge and under the control of the Lehigh Canal Recreation Commission to use for a staging area during the bridge renovation. The letter signed by Kenneth S. Kutchinsky, offers $1,000 for the use of the property. The property is located on section of the Lehigh Canal towpath from Weissport to Parryville.

Weissport is only one member of the Commission. Other members will also have to agree to the request, including Lehighton, Parryville, East Penn Township, Franklin Township and Mahoning Township.

After some discussion, council members agreed to have the compensation for use of the property to revert to the LCRC.

"All of the municipalities will have to agree," said Kershner.

In the second PennDOT request, Weissport was offered $800 for a temporary construction easement that would affect one-eighth of an acre of grassy property near the tennis courts on Franklin Street. That area would be an easement to use as a staging area for materials and construction equipment during the construction.

The third request was made by Schumacher Engineering on behalf of UGI Utilities for a proposed gas main easement. UGI wants a permanent easement through borough property on the west side of Franklin Street. The easement is needed for the relocation of UGI's existing gas main, which is presently located on the bridge. The gas main relocation work is necessary because of the upcoming bridge work by PennDOT.

The proposed easement area will include a portion of the tennis courts. UGI offered no compensation. The letter noted that it will not cost the borough anything to complete this project.

Kershner said that the gas company will relocate the gas main underneath the Lehigh River.

"PennDOT is asking for us to sign a resolution for the temporary construction easements," said Kershner.

Attorney Michael Greek said that PennDOT needs to prepare the easements before the borough can consider adopting a resolution.

Council members advised secretary Dana Brubaker to invite PennDOT officials to a borough council meeting.

Paulette Watson, council member, said she attended the meeting on Thursday with representatives of PennDOT and Norfolk Southern Railway Company. She said that during that meeting she learned that PennDOT has turned down Weissport's request for a temporary traffic light at the intersection of White Street and Bridge Street. She said PennDOT officials said that the intersection is too close to the railroad crossing.

Watson said that she then discussed the possibly of a traffic light at the Franklin Street/Bridge Street intersection with PennDOT officials.

"We need some way to allow our residents to leave town," she said. "PennDOT officials want a letter from us making a formal request."

PennDOT officials were at the railway crossing in Weissport to perform a field investigation of the proposed altering of the signals during the rehabilitation project next year.

"I attended the meeting because of my concerns for the residents," said Watson. "It's good I went so at least we know that they turned down the temporary light at White Street."

During the rehabilitation, traffic will be detoured in one direction where Route 2010 Bridge Street crosses one track of the Norfolk Southern Railway Company in Weissport.

Rehabilitation of the bridge is anticipated to take place next year and will involve a complex detour route.

The $10-million to $11-million project involves a structural rehabilitation of the structure, which carries Route 209 traffic across the Lehigh River, Lehigh Canal, Norfolk Southern Railroad and other local roads.

The structural rehabilitation is anticipated to include: 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, place new protective fencing along both barriers, replace existing drainage scuppers and new downspout systems.

The superstructure repairs include cleaning and repainting the entire superstructure, stiffening gusset plates in the truss spans, adding floor beam cover plates and girder stiffeners to increase capacity. Substructure repairs include replace/rehabilitate bearings, repair deteriorated concrete on piers and abutments, and reconstruct pier 4, and place scout protection at piers 2 and 3.

Work should begin in early 2014.

Kershner said that he has heard that PennDOT is hoping to get an early start on the project.

Temporary traffic patterns in Weissport and surrounding the bridge are expected to last three to four months. During that time, Weissport traffic on Bridge Street will be one way for the entire two lanes.

PennDOT has noted that a temporary traffic lights will be installed at the intersection of Bankway and Bridge Street at the Lehighton end of the Weissport/Lehighton bridge to help with traffic flow.

The McCall Bridge, built in 1938, was 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.

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