PHILIPSBURG — Residents using the closed East Presqueisle Street Bridge here will likely be inconvenienced for several more years.
The bridge, which connects Philpsburg Borough, Centre County and Chester Hill, Clearfield County was closed by the state Department of Transportation in March as testing by PennDOT revealed the steel is becoming brittle during low temperatures, which could cause cracking under loading.
At last night’s Philipsburg Borough Council meeting, action was taken that puts the bridge in the hands of PennDOT, with PennDOT stating it could take “at least 6-8 years” before a new bridge is installed.
Philipsburg Borough Manager Joel Watson said they received a letter from PennDOT giving the borough four different options. The first would be to install a municipal-owned pedestrian bridge in which all funding would come from the state’s Turn Back Program — with the right-of-ways turned over to each municipality. Watson said this could be completed by next year.
Option two would be a vehicle bridge much like the current one was — again paid for through the Turn Back Program — but it would become owned by the municipalities. This option would then have a three-year timeframe.
Option three would be for PennDOT to replace the bridge at a future date. Watson said this would keep the truss closed until the project can be programmed on the state Transportation Improvement Program for a new PennDOT-owned bridge.
“That (option), according to the meetings, is at least six years off,” Watson said, with the PennDOT letter stating “at least 6-8 years.”
Option four would be to remove the bridge altogether and not replace it, which could be done by the end of the year.
Councilwoman Faith Maguire said she felt they should cross option three off due to the lengthy timeframe. However, Councilman John Knowles said option three would be the only option he’d support.
“I want don’t want us owning a bridge,” Knowles said.
Knowles also said that at Chester Hill Borough Council’s meeting, they voted to go with option three — meaning if Philipsburg Borough would decide on something else, they would solely be responsible for the upkeep once it’s installed.
After some discussion on the matter, council officially voted in favor of option three for the bridge, with all council members voting in favor except for Maguire, who abstained from the vote.