Drivers should expect delays on busy Route 29 through fall
Motorists traveling on Gravel Pike (Route 29) through Palm should begin thinking about allowing a little more time to get through the village or plan an alternative route to bypass it.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has issued a notice to proceed with construction of two Gravel Pike bridges in the area; one spanning the Hosensack Creek and the other a tributary of the Perkiomen Creek.
The notice, sent last week, authorized the successful bidder, Road-Con, Inc. of West Chester to begin construction on June 10. Favorable construction weather will play a part in when work actually begins. According to PennDOT, the project was advertised in March with the bids opened in April.
Road-Con, a Pennsylvania based highway contractor, was awarded the contract to replace the two aging and deteriorating structures.
Back in February, Upper Hanover township officials received notification that a PennDOT engineering study determined that the weight limit on the span over the Hosensack Creek needed to be lowered immediately from its unrestricted limit to 25 tons (52,000 lbs.), except combination vehicles (tractor trailers), which would be 40 tons (80,000 lbs). At the time, the already planned project to replace the bridges was in the design phase.
Since then, truck drivers doing business with local companies and industries or just passing through have been required to seek out alternatives or acquire the exception permit for use until construction is completed - particularly those who rely on heavier trucks to transport goods.
Once construction is finished, there will be no posted weight restrictions on that bridge.
Both bridges were built in 1937 and are two of the more than 4,000 Pennsylvania bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient as of February.
Replacement of the bridge over the Hosensack Creek will require a single lane of alternating traffic controlled by temporary traffic signals during the first phase of construction. Zeigler Road, near the Hosensack Creek crossing, will be detoured during construction.
Traffic crossing the bridge over the Perkiomen Creek tributary will also require a single lane of alternating traffic controlled by a temporary signal.
PennDOT officials had originally planned to close both bridges at the same time and detour traffic around the village of Palm. At a June 2011 meeting, township officials expressed concern that the plan would adversely affect businesses and emergency services using the road and forwarded those concerns in a letter to PennDOT.
Closing both bridges at the same time would have cut off traffic at Water Street to the south and Tollgate Road to the north, all but isolating the village of Palm. Alternate routes would have been cumbersome and inconvenient and would have added considerable distance and time to get in and out of the small village.
Detours would have forced emergency vehicles several miles out of their normal route of travel. Low overhead railroad bridges, one-lane roads and spans limited by vehicle weight would have made many alternate routes unusable for heavy vehicles.
Later that year, township officials announced that PennDOT developed an alternate plan to closing Gravel Pike.
According to PennDOT’s Tracey Farabaugh, work on the structures and paving will conclude in late fall of this year, with final paving to be completed in spring of 2014.