A wall along the east side of a small bridge across the Black River in Lower Saucon Township collapsed over the weekend, leading to questions about whether traffic on it may be restricted.
An observant Saucon Source reader was the first to report that the bridge in the 2200 block of Black River Road had been damaged by the collapse.
“The entire side wall to the bridge over Black River Road collapsed into the Black River on Sunday morning,” the reader said, adding that Lower Saucon Township police and the township’s public works department were now evaluating the bridge structure.
The bridge that collapsed is located near Evergreen Drive, along the less-traveled section of Black River Road that is west of Rt. 378. That part of the road is a local road, while Black River Road between Rt. 378 and Bingen Road is a state road under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The bridge is unlisted on a PennDOT map of state and local bridge conditions but has a 15-ton weight limit, according to a road sign located next to it.
Late Saturday night and early Sunday there was an accumulation of heavy, wet snow in the area, with as much as six inches reported in areas near where the bridge is located.
At least two other bridges in the township are currently closed and scheduled for repair or replacement.
The historic Meadows Road Bridge will be demolished and replaced by a new span across the Saucon Creek, just south of Hellertown. Built in 1858, the Northampton County-owned bridge was closed due to structural concerns in April 2018. In spite of recently being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was deemed unsalvageable after parts of its stone structure began to collapse into the creek below last year.
On the other side of the township, a township-owned bridge on Lower Saucon Road near Alpine Drive has been closed for nearly two years. Township officials recently announced that following a period of delays, progress on reopening the span is being made.
The subject of bridge conditions has been frequently in the news lately, particularly following the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh in late January. The collapse occurred during a visit to the city by President Joe Biden, who signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that will help address failing bridges into law in November.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-7)–who represents Northampton and Lehigh counties in Congress–announced that her office had helped secure approximately $327 million in funding from the bill to repair bridges in the Lehigh Valley.
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“This is the first round of funding from theInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that I recently helped pass and President Biden signed into law,” Wild said. “Pennsylvania is set to receive more than $1.6 billion dollars over the next five years as a result of this law, which will not only repair our crumbling infrastructure but create good jobs and grow our local economy along the way.”
On its website’s Bridges page, PennDOT notes that “with more than 25,400 state-owned highway bridges greater than or equal to eigh feet in length, Pennsylvania has the third-largest number of bridges in the nation.”
The average age of state-owned bridges is also over 50 years old, according to PennDOT.
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