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Bypassing traffic for emergencies

  • Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Calvin Ulshafer, PennDOT construction manager and inspector in charge of the McCall Bridge project, displays the type of spike that will be used to delineate the emergency access lane on the Weissport Bridge during the detour.
    Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Calvin Ulshafer, PennDOT construction manager and inspector in charge of the McCall Bridge project, displays the type of spike that will be used to delineate the emergency access lane on the Weissport Bridge during the detour.
Published March 28. 2014 05:00PM

Emergency responders are concerned about traffic congestion this summer caused by the detours from the McCall Bridge rehabilitation project.

To solve the problem, Calvin Ulshafer of J.D. Eckman Inc., contractor for the project, met with emergency responders and officials from Weissport and Lehighton, Franklin and Mahoning townships.

"You'll see that traffic will flow better than it does right now," Ulshafer said. "Now you have people going every which way and with the detour, there will be two lanes going in the same direction and they can only go right or left. It will work a whole lot better."

The detour is scheduled to begin June 6 and will continue for 90 days.

During the detour, Weissport traffic on Bridge Street will be one way for the entire two lanes from Route 248 and Canal Street to Bankway Street.

Emergency responders feared access would be a problem during emergency situations in Weissport or Franklin Township.

Emergency lane

Ulshafer's plan creates an emergency access lane across the Weissport bridge from Bankway Street to Franklin Street in Weissport. This 12-foot wide lane will be created on the downriver side of the bridge and will be closed to regular traffic.

Ulshafer said that this third lane will be just for emergency access only.

The emergency lane will be designated with red-tipped posts. Ulshafer said, "There will be posts all along the lane. If you see the red posts facing you, you know you are going the right way."

Ulshafer said that it was good that the bridge is wide enough for two regular traffic lanes and to create the third emergency lane.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will install a temporary traffic light at the intersection of Bankway and Bridge streets at the Lehighton end of the Weissport/Lehighton bridge to help with traffic flow.

The traffic light will be equipped with a traffic signal pre-emption system to allow normal operation of traffic lights to be pre-empted to assist emergency vehicles by manipulating the traffic signals.

The pre-emption system will give red lights to oncoming traffic in the path of an emergency vehicle, reducing response time and enhancing traffic safety.

Lehighton Fire Chief Gary Frable questioned the cost to install the pre-emption system on fire trucks. He said that Lehighton Fire Department has five fire trucks and that none are equipped with the pre-emption system.

Three of Franklin Township's trucks were equipped with the system at a cost of approximately $1,500 each, Chief Bruce Wolfe said.

If Lehighton wants to equip all of its trucks, it will cost the fire department at least $7,500.

Frable questioned what would happen if a crash occurs at the intersection, blocking the emergency lane.

Ulshafer suggested that if Lehighton does not have pre-emption systems on their trucks, fire police personnel could assist at the intersection.

Traffic signs

Ulshafer said unfortunately some regular traffic will attempt to use the emergency access lane, but that will be an issue for borough police to enforce.

"Once you get to Franklin Street, there is access throughout the town of Weissport," Ulshafer said.

If a train comes, there will still be emergency access issues in Franklin Township, but Ulshafer said that can't be prevented.

PennDOT will be installing all traffic signs for the detour. Weissport will be losing three parking spaces on Franklin Street during the detour to provide access on Bridge Street.

Ulshafer said that the stop sign on Canal Street will be eliminated, allowing traffic coming from Route 209 to flow. He added that Bridge Street and the Weissport bridge will be blacktopped before the detour and that Canal Street, from Route 209 to the railroad intersection will be repaved as the bridge project is completed.

He added that during the detour a section of Main Road from Canal Street to Bank Street will be one way in Franklin Township.

The project

During the McCall bridge rehabilitation project, workers are scheduled to work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday with some occasional Friday shifts.

The $11.8 million project involves 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 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, placing new protective fencing along both barriers, replacing 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 replacing/rehabilitating bearings, repairing deteriorated concrete on piers and abutments, reconstructing pier 4, and placing additional protection at piers 2 and 3.

The McCall Bridge, built in 1938, was last rehabilitated in 1981.

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