PennDOT representatives were on hand last Wednesday to address residents who turned out to learn more about the closure of the heavily-traveled Route 63 in Marlborough.
The state has planned simultaneous replacement of three bridges along Sumneytown Pike in Marlborough and Upper Salford townships in 2015. Over three dozen residents turned out to ask questions and express opposition to the intended detours.
Paul Shultes, serving as project manager from AECOM in King of Prussia, spoke on behalf of PennDOT. According to Shultes, the replacements are a matter of safety as each bridge is over 70 years old with varying structural deficiencies. The projects are scheduled to begin in 2015 and run into the 2016 construction season.
According to Shultes, two Sumneytown bridges crossing the Ridge Valley and Unami creeks north of Geryville Pike will be replaced together due to their proximity. Repairs to the third bridge, crossing the east branch of the Perkiomen Creek in Upper Salford Township, may begin sooner, although the projects will undoubtedly overlap.
Shultes acknowledged that the projects will create significant traffic problems as Sumneytown Pike is one of the only local roads that can support heavy truck traffic. The road is also a main artery for commuters travelling to the Lansdale area, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike entrance in Kulpsville.
“Unfortunately, we can’t leave the road open the whole time and still get this done in anything close to a reasonable amount of time,” Shultes said.
The proposed plan for the duration of the projects would keep one lane of traffic open in opposite directions for both affected areas, detouring vehicles traveling the other direction. For the Upper Salford bridge, traffic will flow from Green Lane toward Lansdale with the other direction detoured over Route 113 to Allentown Road and Route 563.
For the dual replacement of the Ridge Valley and Unami Creek bridges, traffic will flow toward Green Lane. The proposed detour has drivers travelling south on Route 29 to Crusher Road and back out onto Sumneytown Pike from Perkiomenville Road.
Residents asked several questions about the ability of area roads to handle the increased traffic as well as the impact of the detours on Sumneytown businesses and overall traffic delays. Several asked whether allowing both directions to pass alternatively would be a better solution.
Shultes explained that the idea of allowing vehicles to pass through form both directions was considered but quickly dismissed as it was more expensive with more right of way impacts on property owners and no benefit to drivers.
“The delays were staggering during rush hour so we abandoned that approach,” Shultes said.
Shultes concluded by welcoming written feedback as the project plans are finalized.
Frank Nuzzolese, owner of Dolce Vita restaurant in Sumneytown, expects to be hit hard by the project.
“We get that you have to have ways to save your money, but we have to save our money too,” Nuzzolese said.
In other news, Marlborough supervisors swore in Officer Andrew Curtis to the Marlborough Township Police Department. Police Chief Raymond Fluck, Officer Ted Baird and Officer Darren Morgan attended the ceremony.
“Everything in Marlborough takes a long time,” Supervisor Chair Joan Smith commented, referring to the time supervisors spent interviewing candidates. “But when we get it done, we get it right.”
Officer Morgan introduced Curtis to residents, highlighting his recent experience as an intern for the Franconia Township Police Department. Curtis completed police academy training in New Hampshire, received his BA in Criminal Justice from Messiah College and obtained Act 120 certification from Delaware County Community College.
“I think he is going to be a great asset to our township,” Morgan added.