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Main St. bridge closure an inconvenience but needed, business owner says

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    This sign is posted by the Main Street Bridge, which was expected to be shut down today for repairs. As of midafternoon, the bridge over the Lehigh River that connects Walnutport and Slatington had yet to be closed to traffic due to police activity on the detour route earlier today, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Sean Young. Young said this afternoon the bridge was still expected to be closed today. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS

Published August 15. 2018 03:12PM

After several delays, the Main Street Bridge that connects Slatington and Walnutport is shut down for deck replacement.

The bridge over the Lehigh River was closed around 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Sean Brown.

Repairs were expected to get underway earlier in the day, but Brown said police activity on the detour route resulted in the postponement.

Contacted this morning, Brown said state police had Route 873 closed for a time Wednesday morning.

Bethlehem State Police said a release would eventually be forthcoming.

An incident in which a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle along Route 873 Wednesday morning is what prolonged the closure of the bridge, according to Abel Boyer, fifth-generation owner of A.F. Boyer Hardware & Guns in Slatington.

Boyer said the closure will undoubtedly affect not only his business, but all those within the area.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a big inconvenience for everybody,” Boyer said. “It’s definitely going to keep average traffic away; it’s definitely going to impact us and all of the businesses everywhere.”

However, Boyer said the repairs is “something that’s been needed.”

“Once it’s all fixed, we’re excited that it’s going to be a permanent thing, that they’re not just patching the bridge,” he said. “It’s definitely going to make both Slatington and Walnutport look so much nicer.”

Jake Thomson, the owner of Thomson’s Meat Market in Walnutport, said he believes the closure will “slow things up a little bit.”

However, Thomson believes his business will be all right, all things considered.

“There’s nowhere else to go get food unless they drive to Weis Markets or Palmerton,” Thomson said. “I think it’s going to go back to normal (once the bridge is complete).”

Although the bridge is closed to vehicles, plans have been made so that emergency medical services will still be able to use it.

A Walnutport borough official said last week he believes school buses should be allowed to travel over the Main Street Bridge while it’s shut down for repairs.

Councilman David Stankovic said he believes school buses should be allowed to access the bridge.

Eighteen Northern Lehigh district vehicles, buses, minibuses and vans will have to use the detour through the Lehigh Gap, which will add travel time to each of those runs in the morning and afternoon. Some buses will add more than an hour travel time, cumulatively, Superintendent Matthew Link said.

The bridge is estimated to be opened in October.

But Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Ron Young said allowing school buses to go over the bridge while repairs are underway was determined to be unsafe.

The closure of the bridge was originally slated for Aug. 7, but that date was pushed back due to the contractor’s schedule.

Its deck has been rated as poor, and the bridge will be replaced with a 48.5-foot-wide, 419-foot-long deck. The deck is originally from 1969.

This section of Main Street has an average daily traffic volume of 10,015 vehicles.

The Main Street Bridge is one of four in the Lehigh Valley being repaired under a $2.5 million contract.

Work on the bridges include repairing steel, decks, beams, bearings, joints and scouring countermeasures for the bridges over waterways.

The general contractor to repair the bridges is H & K Group of Skippack, Montgomery County.

Traffic will be detoured on Route 873 (North Walnut Street), Route 145 (Riverview Drive/North Best Avenue), and Route 248 (POW/MIA Remembrance Highway).

Pedestrian access will be maintained on the bridge during the deck replacement.

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