2017-11-16 / Front Page

Emergency Meeting Convened to Discuss Vosburg Bridge Closing

Rick Hiduk

PUC senior civil engineer manager Ronald Hull (center) mediates an emergency meeting of officials from PennDOT, Reading & Northern Railroad, the state, Wyoming County and Washington Township on the recently closed Vosburg Road bridge on Nov. 14. Plans were made that day to accelerate repairs to the bridge and enhance a detour that includes Mountain and Washington Park Roads Photos by Rick HidukPUC senior civil engineer manager Ronald Hull (center) mediates an emergency meeting of officials from PennDOT, Reading & Northern Railroad, the state, Wyoming County and Washington Township on the recently closed Vosburg Road bridge on Nov. 14. Plans were made that day to accelerate repairs to the bridge and enhance a detour that includes Mountain and Washington Park Roads Photos by Rick Hiduk

Two dozen officials representing a variety of interests and a handful of residents met on the recently closed Vosburg Road bridge on Nov. 14. The intent of the meeting, which was mediated by civil engineers from the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), was to determine how quickly the bridge could be repaired and opened to traffic and to address safety issues for those who must rely on a detour until the work is completed.

PennDOT officials closed the bridge in early November after a routine inspection revealed severe deterioration of some beams underneath the roadway, especially at the north end. The iconic structure was repurposed to Vosburg years ago from another location. It carries vehicular traffic over the Reading & Northern railroad line where the spur pops out between two tunnels. In addition to residents, it is used by hunters and those driving to Camp Lackawanna, the Endless Mountains Nature Center and the Howland Preserve.

“Rust was hiding a lot of the problem,” said PennDOT District 4 bridge engineer Gerard Babinski. “It wasn’t safe to be on.” The engineer who conducted the inspection considers the road deck to be in poor shape also. When the extent of the deterioration was calculated, it was determined that there was no legal load limit.Participants in the Vosburg Bridge meeting included, from left, Washington Township supervisor Danny Huff; Paul Litwin III, solicitor for Washington Township and Wyoming County, and Rep. Karen Boback.Participants in the Vosburg Bridge meeting included, from left, Washington Township supervisor Danny Huff; Paul Litwin III, solicitor for Washington Township and Wyoming County, and Rep. Karen Boback.

Babinski explained that current plans are to replace steel stringers and a steel truss, repair some beams and replace the entire wooden floor. Some repair work will be done to the stone abutment as well, including repointing the mortar. The final step will be repainting the bridge.

Babinski was hoping to be able to accelerate the process of bidding out the work and the usual period of public review, which could delay the start of the work until the new year. He was also reluctant to consider a temporary insert due to potential cost and the difficulty in bringing the approaches flush with the ends of the insert. There is no room in the ravine for a temporary bridge.

“We can get an emergency order if nobody objects,” said PUC senior civil engineer manager Ronald Hull, looking around the circle at those gathered for the discussion. All parties of record, including railroad representatives, were in agreement that the work should be done as soon as possible, as were the three residents in attendance.

Babinski’s conservative estimate on the project was a Dec. 21 start date and opening of the roadway by April 15, 2018. He would like to see the road opened by mid March, but is concerned that late season snows could delay the project. The painting can be done later, with all of the work finished by June 2018.

The focus of the conversation then switched to the detour, which is considered unsafe in its current condition by residents and the meeting participants who drove it to get to the lower side of the bridge. Mountain Road from Vosburg up to Washington Park Road is a hard-packed dirt road that narrows to one lane at several points and has precarious ledges, no pull-offs and 90-degree turns.

Washington Township resident Barb Christ expressed concern about the blind turns and the potential for people to speed on the detour. In her experience, she added, Washington Park and Mountain Roads are the last to be plowed when it snows. Rep. Karen Boback had heard from residents with medical conditions who need to get out of Vosburg for routine doctors’ visits. She was informed by the residents at the meeting that school children are driven up to Washington Park to meet the bus.The bridge on Vosburg Road spans the Reading & Northern Railroad tracks that run from Procter & Gamble at Mehoopany south along the Susquehanna River. It was closed after a routine PennDOT inspection in early November due to severe deterioration of its steel infrastructure.  The bridge on Vosburg Road spans the Reading & Northern Railroad tracks that run from Procter & Gamble at Mehoopany south along the Susquehanna River. It was closed after a routine PennDOT inspection in early November due to severe deterioration of its steel infrastructure.

PennDOT assistant district director Dennis Giordana related that a truck will be dedicated to Vosburg through the winter months, and that the removal of several trees and widening of some sections of Mountain Road will commence shortly. Some guide rails and barriers might also be installed. Washington Township supervisor Danny Huff said that the plowing schedule could be modified to ensure that the detour to Vosburg is accessible.

Until the roadbed of the bridge is removed, those in need of emergency medical attention could be pushed across the span on a gurney to a waiting ambulance. After that, Wyoming County EMA operations and training officer David Carichner suggested, 911 dispatchers, Meshoppen Fire & Ambulance, and the township should communicate directly in the event that an emergency vehicle needs to go down Mountain Road to ensure that it is passable.

Temporary signage and lights will be erected shortly. Township officials also agreed that speed limit signs could be put up to replace several that have disappeared over the years, and that Meshoppen Police will be asked to include the 25 mph route in their patrols.

On Friday, PUC civil engineer consultant William Sinnick was finalizing the order, which will be sent to all parties of record upon completion.

 

 


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