Luzerne County could end up paying just 5% of the cost of renovating or replacing the firefighters’ memorial bridge connecting Pittston and West Pittston, with the rest coming from state and federal funding, according to a proposal being discussed Tuesday.
The county-owned bridge over the Susquehanna River has been closed since early August due to concerns about a bent eyebar.
Under a new agreement before the board, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is set to take responsibility for the design and construction of the bridge, as it would be consolidated with state work on its neighboring Fort Bridge. Jenkins, which was built on the Susquehanna in 1926 and also connects Pittston and West Pittston.
According to County Councilman Brian Thornton, who participated in county administration discussions with state officials on plans for the bridge:
The state has grouped bridges in past projects when the proximity of spans means changes to one would impact traffic on the other.
“It’s not efficient to do them separately,” said Thornton, who was asked to get involved because of his previous work as a structural engineer.
In this case, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offered several options that are still under consideration, including rehabilitation of one bridge and replacement of the other, rehabilitation of both bridges, or replacement of both bridges.
A public meeting will be scheduled, with a target for early April, to present the options to residents of the Pittston and West Pittston areas and solicit public comment, he said.
An estimated $50 million would be needed to replace the two spans, which includes surveying the river, designing, permitting and demolishing the current bridges, he said.
Assuming that option is chosen and state and federal funding arrives, the county would be responsible for 5% of the project costs associated with the firefighters’ memorial bridge alone, Thornton said. That would equate to about $1.25 million in county costs based on ballpark estimates, he said.
“I think that’s fantastic, and hopefully we could use the US bailout funding for something like that,” he said.
The county has $99.6 million in U.S. federal bailout funding that has not yet been earmarked for projects.
Thornton said the bridge needs to be repaired because “local economies have been crippled on both sides of the river” since the Fire Memorial Bridge was closed.
When open, the county bridge saw about 8,000 vehicles a day, he said. Traffic on the Fort Jenkins Bridge has increased from 12,000 vehicles to 20,000 a day as the county is out of service, he said.
“It was never built to handle all that volume, and there are traffic issues on both sides,” Thornton said.
Built in 1914, the 1,500ft steel firefighters’ memorial bridge was last rehabilitated in 1984 and has long been considered structurally deficient, with a weight limit of 20 tons, officials said.
Thornton said there was an “enormous amount of deterioration” on both bridges.
The proposed agreement with the state stipulates that the county must continue to maintain the firefighters’ memorial bridge after the work is complete.
The state Department of Transportation will have the option to terminate the agreement if it does not receive the necessary federal or state funds to complete the project, he said.
County Interim Operational Services Division Chief Fred Rosencrans said he supports the deal because the county’s contribution would be capped at 5% and work on the two bridges would be synchronized to be the least disruptive to residents. motorists.
“This agreement essentially removes responsibility for all procurement and project management from the county and significantly reduces county costs,” Rosencrans said.
Overall project costs will decrease by treating the two spans together, Acting County Executive Romilda Crocamo said.
“Why study separately? It’s more efficient, cost-effective and uniform,” she said.
The deal is under discussion at Tuesday’s business session, which follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the River Street County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre. The board must then vote at a subsequent meeting for the agreement to come into effect.
Instructions for attending Tuesday’s meeting remotely are posted under the council’s online meetings link on luzernecounty.org.
Contact Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.