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Residents meeting with Turnpike officials; Hatchery Road in Penn Forest to be closed for bridge replacement

Residents of Hatchery Road will be meeting with representatives of the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Wednesday to iron out details for access because a bridge project is set to begin in March.

Keith and Audrey Fox have been approaching Penn Forest Township officials for several months because they will be forced to take a 25-mile detour from Hatchery Road down to Beltzville, just to get to the other side of Hatchery Road and connect with Maury Road and Route 903.

“They’ll be in for the shock of their life,” Audrey Fox said. “There is a lot of traffic on that road.”

School buses travel the road in the morning and afternoon and the residents are concerned about emergency services if something happens.

The detour is not just inconvenient for residents, it’s costly.

“We still don’t have the mail worked out,” she said. “It’s nearly 60 miles round trip for the mail, doctors appointments and tests.”

The work is being done as part of a pilot bridge replacement project for the turnpike’s Bridge Information Modeling and Digital Delivery Program, which includes developing a 3D model. The existing bridge was a single-span steel beam bridge.

Part of a $1.5 million engineering services contract, the Hatchery Road bridge over the turnpike will be replaced with a wider and longer bridge.

The Foxes spoke at the Penn Forest meeting last month, saying that a letter from the Turnpike Commissioner was sent to the township in July 2021.

They said the letter offers no specific details about the bridge replacement project except for a likely date.

A follow-up letter in 2022 was found last month and was also shy of details.

The next letter in 2023 was already talking of bids.

Audrey Fox said about the seven families, including her own, that will be cut off from the township, emergency services, mail, and the township’s transfer station.

Hatchery Road going east toward Kresgeville is in poor condition for many miles, Fox said.

There are students of the Jim Thorpe School District among the families, so they must figure a way for a separate bus ride. She said the school district did not know of the pending closure.

She also said that there are key facilities for the Buckeye Pipeline and PPL on the road, along with Bethlehem Water Authority reservoirs and dams.

Supervisor chairman Roger Meckes said he was “sorry that you are in this situation ... I wish we could change this.”

Supervisor Christian Bartulovich said that the township is trying to broker a meeting with turnpike engineers and officials involved in the project. He said that “the turnpike has a lot to answer for.”

Fox said that she is “scared” of what is to come, and for people with health problems among the residents.

She also fears that the 9-month proposed closure could easily turn into a year or longer.

Turnpike officials did not respond to requests for more information.

Marta Gouger contributed to this report.

A computer design of the new bridge to be installed on Hatchery Road over the Pennsylvania Turnpike. PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION
A computer design of the new bridge to be installed on Hatchery Road over the Pennsyvania Turnpike. PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION