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Weissport doomed to traffic woes during reconstruction, say officials

Published May 08. 2013 05:03PM

Weissport was dealt a blow by Heather Heeter, PennDOT engineer in charge of the McCall Bridge reconstruction project.

Weissport Council heard from David L. Horst, PE, of Alfred Benesch and Company, Weissport's engineering firm, that Heeter did not agree with placing a temporary traffic light at the intersection of Franklin and Bridge streets.

Council has maintained that Weissport residents will not be able to enter the traffic flow during the construction phase when all traffic will be diverted through Weissport. PennDOT has estimated that the detour will be approximately three months long.

Most vocal about the disappointment was council vice president Sue Pywar.

"How are our residents going to get out of here?" asked Pywar.

Pywar had questioned PennDOT officials about the possibly of having a temporary traffic light placed on Bridge Street on Jan. 5, 2012 when a hearing at Franklin Township Fire Co. was held to inform local officials and the public about the proposed reconstruction of the McCall bridge.

At that time, PennDOT officials announced that rehabilitation of the Route 209 Thomas McCall Memorial Bridge, which spans Weissport borough, would occur in 2014 and would involve a complex detour route.

The plans call for a $10-million to $11-million rehabilitation instead of a more expensive replacement and enlargement of the bridge. The proposed latex concrete overlay will last for 20 to 25 years before it wears out and needs to be replaced.

The project involves a 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 bridge project is out for bid and work should begin in early 2014.

During the three to four months that the new traffic patterns will be in effect, Weissport traffic on Bridge Street will be one way for the entire two lanes.

The Route 209 bridge is a principal arterial roadway in an urban area and carries 23,000 vehicles a day through the project area. Presently the bridge accommodates two 11-foot by six-inch lanes of traffic and an additional 11-foot "left turn lane" at each end. The bridge also carries a five-foot, two-inch sidewalk on the north side.

The curb-to-curb width of the bridge is not wide enough to accommodate two-directional traffic during the deck repair construction. Therefore, one lane of Route 209 northbound traffic will be maintained on the bridge while the southbound traffic will be detoured on Canal Street, through Weissport on Bridge Street and onto Bankway Street.

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.

At the January 2012 hearing, David Marchese, PennDOT official, said that a temporary traffic signal would not be a problem.

"They are not expensive and they would be set to only operate when triggered by traffic," said Marchese in January.

Horst said that Heeter explained to him that Marchese does not have the authority to make such decisions.

Council then discussed the request from Behavorial Health Associates of 413 Bridge St., Weissport, to designate a school zone for the students because of costs.

"We'll address the four temporary no parking spaces when we redo our ordinance," said Gene Kershner, council president.

The school requested that Weissport place "no parking" signs on four parking spaces in front of the school between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. They had also asked for two school zone signs on Bridge Street to alert motorists about the school.

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