By Anya Tikka
SHOHOLA, PA Although last Tuesday’s meeting at the Shohola, PA, Town Hall was for the Planning Committee to discuss different designs for the proposed new Pond Eddy Bridge, concerns over building the new bridge instead of rehabilitating the existing one came up in the discussion.
Nine different designs for the bridge were presented, with the cost ranging from $8 to $14 million. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) sent representatives to the meeting, facilitated by Paul J. De Angelo of Skelly and Loy Engineering in Harrisburg, PA.
All the designs were for a 40-ton bridge that conforms to federal interstate standards, although on the Pennsylvania side the bridge connects only to a handful of residents on a riverside narrow road, with no outlet to any Pennsylvania roads. The designs range from a simple four-span concrete to an elaborate cable structure with 1-3 piers in the river.
The 108-year-old existing bridge that’s on the National Registry of Historic Structures is beyond repair, according to PennDOT studies.
The PennDOT created a Pond Eddy Bridge Design Advisory Committee and several members weighed in.
Glenn Pontier was concerned over the size of the proposed bridge. “Do a 20-ton bridge cost exercise,” he suggested, but ultimately, as a member of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB), Pontier would prefer to see the historic bridge fixed and maintained.
The UDSB has sent a letter to PennDot officially opposed to tearing down the historic bridge.
Town of Lumberland Supervisor Nadia Rajsz said, “I’d like to see the current structure rehabilitated, but apparently that’s not an option.”
Another board member, Columbia University’s Urban Design Lab Director Richard A. Plunz, questioned the bridge designs. He said there are three problems that need to be addressed regarding building a new bridge.
The first one is the danger of flooding. “The new bridge designs make the distance from water level to the bottom of the bridge shorter due to modern construction methods,” explained Plunz in a phone call, continuing, “During a 100-year flood, the area would definitely be flooded, especially during the two-year construction period when a barrier would have to be built, connecting the new and old bridges, effectively creating a dam with definite flooding.”
Second, when the Shohola/Barryville Bridge was built, the cost was double the estimate. Why would it be any different here? asked Plunz. PennDOT officials admitted they cannot give accurate cost estimates.
Third, “PennDOT does not say what comes next after building the bridge. They say that they can only address one thing at the time, first build the bridge, then build a road,” said Plunz. “Starting one project without disclosing what’s coming after it in another phase is illegal, and would not stand a legal challenge. The legal term for it is segmentation.”
Shohola Supervisor George C. Fluhr said that according to his sources, the current bridge is beyond repair. The road on PA side backs on to a mountain and State Game Lands, making building a connecting road to other PA roads impossible. He added that building roads to Milford would cost three times as much as building a new bridge, and the five-mile distance to connect to the Twin Lakes offshoot Parker’s Glen Road was not practical due to it going through railroad and privately owned lands.