Birmingham, Pocopson talk 926 bridge replacement

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Newest PennDOT plans call for raising roadway approaches to finally end most flooding issues

By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, UnionvilleTimes.com

Birmingham and Pocopson officials hope to work closely together on plans to replace the Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine.

POCOPSON — Township supervisors approved revised plans by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for a new Route 926 bridge over Brandywine at Monday night’s Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors Meeting.

Birmingham Township Supervisors’ Chair, John Conklin, also in attendance at the meeting, said he wanted to touch base with Pocopson officials as both municipalities are working closely together on the project, which would replace an aging bridge between the two townships that crosses the Brandywine. Plans have been in the works, off and on, since at least 2000 to replace the bridge. Both towns objected to an earlier plan by PennDOT that would have replaced the bridge, but not addressed any of the flooding issues, which currently closes the roadway multiple times a year.

PennDOT intends to raise the approach roads on both sides of the 926 bridge to decrease flooding and associated bridge closures throughout the year.  Pocopson Supervisors’ Chair, Steve Conary made a recommendation to hold a joint public meeting with Birmingham Township  “to allow the businesses to weigh in since the change will directly impact” their livelihood.

Despite the progress, the question “how to deal with all of the traffic?” continues to plaque officials from both Pocopson and Birmingham Townships. In addition to creating a left-hand turn lane on Rt. 52 onto Pocopson Road, there are some concerns about traffic bogging down at the Lenape Bridge — which has a narrow entry and is controlled by stop signs in all three directions.

One suggestion would close Creek Road in Birmingham between 926 and 52, but there is far from universal support for the idea among local officials, as it could, potentially, cause more headaches than it would solve — impacting not only Radley Run in Birmingham,  as well as many commuters on the eastern side of Pocopson, which currently uses Creek Road south from 926 to access US-1 to get to Delaware County and beyond. The closure would also have a major impact on bus routing for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District — longer bus rides for all of the Birmingham students attending Pocopson Elementary, among other changes. However, privately, officials suggest such a closure is unlikely at this time.

Conary introduced a proposal from Traffic Planning and Design (TPD) to prepare a bid package for the installation of a left turning lane from northbound route 52 onto Pocopson Road. Conary expressed the need to complete the work this summer in order to help alleviate the traffic “nightmare” likely to occur during the 926 bridge replacement.

Conary also discussed getting a price to run conduit for a traffic light “in case” PennDOT sees a need and agrees to install a light during bridge construction.

Brutscher felt the state may look at the installation as a sign the township could also pay for the light and asked for separate pricing and further discussion.

Conary added that the township previously investigated putting a light at the intersection of 52 and Pocopson Road and found the project to be too costly because of having to tie the traffic light in with the railroad crossing.

Supervisors, Georgia Brutscher and Ricki Stumpo both abstained from the vote; Brutscher citing difficulties with TPD during past projects, causing the issue to be tabled until the February 27 meeting.

Following lively discussion over where excess traffic should be directed and what routes could be used, Birmingham’s Conklin stated “there’s no nice way to do this,” but all agreed they would work together to come up with an acceptable plan.

The 926 Bridge replacement is expected to begin in 2014 and take approximately two years to complete.

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