926 bridge meeting may offer answers

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Local officials to quiz PennDOT on changes to bridge replacement plan

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

The bridge over the Brandywine is slated for replacement. Officials from local townships are concerned that new plans no longer addres the constant flooding issues on either side of the bridge.

Local officials aren’t expecting a quick fix to their concerns about revisions to the state’s plans to replace the bridge over the Brandywine at Route 926 — but they hope to get some answers during a meeting, Wednesday.

Officials from Birmingham and Pocopson townships, as well Chester County, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and representatives from local state legislators are expected to sit down with representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to talk about revisions to the plans to build a new bridge across the Brandywine in 2012.

The biggest bone of contention: changes to the plans that delete a build up of the roadway on either side of the bridge to end the flooding problems that has plagued the bridge for generations.

While money — or the lack of it — appears to be at the core of the changes, although some issues with nearby power-transmission lines are a factor, PennDOT’s seeming sudden urgency in scheduling the bridge replacement may be over concerns about the condition of the span, an old iron bridge, that shows signs of rust. The weight limits on the bridge have been reduced in recent years, an indication that the bridge could be nearing the end of its life span.

John Conklin, chair of the Birmingham Board of Supervisors, acknowledged that the meeting isn’t likely to provide an immediate solution, but will be an opportunity to find out what the reasons for the change is plans are and if there are any options for changes as the process goes forward.

Conklin said he and his colleagues are a little frustrated by the change in plans, much as his counterparts across the Brandywine in Pocopson — as the plans to replace the bridge have been in the works for at least a decade, including a general build-up of Route 926 as it approaches the bridge from either side to prevent flooding from closing the roadway. Just last month, word came that project had been scaled back to little more than just a simple replacement of the existing span.

“It’s going to be tough to explain to people, after waiting 12 to 15 months for the new bridge, when we have to close it again, right away for a flood,” Conklin said.

Still, storm water management may be even more complicated as the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been rolling out more requirements for local municipalities — and at the same time, run off from upstream sources has increased, making flooding events more common both at this site and a range of areas south to the city of Chester.

While no quick solution may come from this week’s meeting, Conklin said he thought it would at least offer both the chance for local officials to express their concerns and get a better sense of why PennDOT wants to move in a new direction on the project. He was quick to note that both the offices of state Sen. Dominic Pileggi and State Rep. Steve Barrar have been very responsive on the issue, and both are expected to have representatives at the meeting.

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