Major route for local businesses and industries will be affected
In a move that reflects the aging and deterioration of the many roads and bridges in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently lowered the weight limit on an Upper Hanover bridge that carries a main artery to and from the Upper Perkiomen Valley.
The Gravel Pike (Route 29) bridge that spans the Hosensack Creek was scheduled to be replaced later this year, but a recent engineering study determined that the weight limit should be dropped from its current unrestricted limit to 26 tons (52,000 lbs); except combination (tractor-trailers) which will be 40 tons (80,000 lbs.).
Upper Hanover officials received notification on Monday from Steve Benner of PennDOT’s Bridge Inspection Department regarding the downgrade. It was noted that all overweight vehicles requesting permission to cross the bridge must submit an application to exceed posted weight or size limit request to PennDOT for review and approval.
PennDOT Community Relations Coordinator Charles Metzger said that “The weight limit signs will go up within a week.”
In addition to private and commercial vehicles, the notification states that public agencies that may be required to file an application to exceed posted weight or size limit request includes post offices, school districts, township vehicles, fire departments and other emergency response vehicles that exceed the 26-ton limit, though they are exempt from any application fees. The fee is $15 for each single trip and a $50 application fee for each 3-month or 12-month permit.
The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code exempts fire apparatus from posted weight restrictions on highways but not on bridges. Fire companies serving the Upper Perkiomen Valley have several trucks that exceed the new weight limit.
While the downgrade won’t affect most motorists, local businesses and industries that rely on the heavier trucks to transport goods will need to seek out alternatives or acquire the exception permit for use until the bridge is replaced. Most school busses average about 22,000 to 28,000 pounds empty and about 42,000 pounds when carrying students, and should be under the maximum weight for the bridge.
However, a full-size, fully loaded dump truck could easily exceed the 26-ton maximum.
Trucks exceeding the new weight limit traveling to Knoll International, Blommer Chocolate, Brown Printing, The Shoppes at Upper Hanover and other nearby businesses will need to acquire a permit for each vehicle to cross the span if they exceed the new limit.
Also, trucks exceeding the new weight limit that use the Route 29 truck bypass route on Water Street, Church Road and Schoolhouse Road in Upper Hanover Township will need to seek another route around the weight-restricted bridge.
The bridge, along with a smaller bridge located about one-half mile north on Gravel Pike and spanning a tributary to the Perkiomen Creek between Stauffer and Station roads are scheduled to be replaced later this year.
Both bridges were built in 1937 and are two of the more than 4,000 Pennsylvania bridges that are deemed structurally deficient.
The project is planned to be completed in two phases. Phase one of the Hosensack Creek bridge replacement will entail a single lane of alternating traffic controlled by temporary traffic signals. Phase two will consist of two way traffic with a single lane of alternating traffic in each direction. Zeigler Road, near the Hosensack creek crossing, will be detoured for both phases.
The project was expected to out for bids early this year with construction planned to start in June and conclude in late fall, though final paving isn’t expected to be finished until sometime in the spring of 2014.
According to Metzger, “The replacement project is currently in the design phase with construction to begin sometime in April and completion in mid-summer.”
He added that once the construction is complete, there will be no posted weight restrictions on the span.