Approximately 75 residents of the Northwest were on hand to hear about the future closing of the Walnut Street Bridge at the Blue Bell Hill Civic Association meeting Tuesday night.
Michael Cuddy, a representative from PennDOT, presented the group's revised plan for closing Walnut Lane Bridge for maitinance and construction, a plan that would close the bridge to all motor vehicle traffic for six months.
"Right now, the bridge is in overall fair condition," he said. "In terms of load-bearing capacity, the bridge is sound right now. However, we don't wan't to let it get into bad condition."
PennDOT's plan, according to Cuddy, is to close the bridge to all traffic for six months starting in the spring of 2014 while construction crews replace missing and eroded concrete from the bridge.
"Our aim is to close the bridge for as little time as possible," he said. "Once we get the deck secured and in place, we can shift traffic back to the bridge."
Cuddy said that, under the current PennDOT plan, one lane of the bridge would re-open and allow for two-way traffic in and out of Roxborough. The entire project is projected to be completed sometime in 2015.
Cuddy said that one of the main reasons the structure needs to be repaired is due to moisture getting into the 104-year-old bridge and eroding its concrete and iron supports.
"There is rust on some of the bridges beam, and right now it is minimal," he said. "But, if we leave it unchecked, there could be a problem."
Charles Denny, the Assistant Chief Traffic Engineer for the PHiladelphia Streets Department, said that there would be detour signs posted directing motorists away from the bridge. The city would detour cars to and from the Northwest via Midvale Avenue.
"Hopefully, folks will use the regional rail," he said. "But there will be posted signs and residents will find their own was around."
The issue for the Streets Department, Denny said, is that some of the area's roads that could be used as thoroughfares, such as Valley Green road, aren't build to handled the increased traffic that closing the bridge could potentially cause.
"That bridge sees about 10,000 cars per day," he said. "Some of these smaller roads like Valley Green aren't built to take 10 times the load. They aren't up to standard for through traffic."
According to Cuddy, the revised construction plan will go out to bid by the end of 2013. He hopes that, once a contractor is in place, the six-month closure timeframe could come down.
"This is an incentive-based contract," he said. "Six months is a conservative estimate. It could be done before that."