'We're excited about the bridge'
Carbon County officials are eager to work with groups involved in the Route 903 bridge replacement project in Jim Thorpe.
During the county railroad commission meeting Wednesday, the board voiced its approval for the $28.1 million project.
"All three of the commissioners are happy with the situation," Commissioner William O'Gurek reported. "Everyone is willing to work together.
"We are pretty excited about what's happening here, not only from the transportation standpoint and what the bridge will mean for the area, but also the millions of dollars going to be spent on the project," said O'Gurek.
"It's a good thing. It's growth for Carbon County and we're just happy to be a player in it."
He said that the contractor, Allan A. Myers LP of Worcester, has begun moving equipment into the staging area and residents can expect to see a lot of activity in the coming months.
To help with the equipment move, Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said that the county is removing a wooden fence under the current bridge that currently blocks access to the rail yard. A new gate will be installed for construction crews.
He noted that the current access gate, used primarily by Reading and Northern Railroad, will still be the gate used when the overflow parking lot is needed on event weekends.
"We're excited about the project," Gerhard said. "We wish them the best of luck."
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said that one railroad track will have to be moved to accommodate the retaining wall that will be installed along the mountain.
The bridge project officially began on Feb. 10, when Allan A. Myers began moving equipment on-site.
According to the plans for the construction, the current bridge will remain open while the new bridge is being built. Traffic will then be rerouted onto the new bridge so demolition of the current bridge can take place.
The estimated completion date, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is July 2017, but Gerhard said Allan A. Myers is pretty confident that it will be able to finish the project early.
The new bridge will be a 961-foot, four-span continuous steel plate girder bridge structure over the Lehigh River, Lehigh Canal and Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern and Norfolk Southern railroad lines.
The proposed structure will be about 940 feet upstream from the existing bridge. It will run from approximately the intersection of Second Street on the east side of Jim Thorpe and connect to Route 209 at about the intersection of Liberty Road at the section known as the Liberties.
The project also includes constructing retaining walls and reconstructing and widening Route 209.
In other matters, Nothstein announced that the March meeting of the railroad commission has been canceled because he and Gerhard will be at a County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania conference that week.
The Carbon County Railroad Commission was formed in 1980 because the county commissioners at the time wanted to buy the 18-plus mile stretch of railroad to keep businesses that utilize rail for transportation in the county.
The Carbon property stretches from Packerton to just beyond the Hometown High Bridge in Schuylkill County and is managed by C&S Railroad, co-owned by Andrew M. Muller Jr., president of Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad, and James Zurn.
Businesses that are served along this line include Air Products and Chemicals and TransWestern Polymers in Hometown, and Ametek Westchester Plastics in Nesquehoning
One charter member, Richard Forgay of Lansford, still sits on the commission as the treasurer.