Repair of Red Bridge’s bridge proving complicated

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Multiple issues, including PennDOT rules, extending process for a fix

By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, UnionvilleTimes.com

The bridge at the entrance of Red Bridge Farms in Pocopson is in need of repairs, but a combination of factors is slowing the process.

POCOPSON — Costs and governmental regulations are just some of the factors holding up repairs for Red Bridge Farms’ namesake bridge.

At Monday’s Township Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Roger Hiss, representing the Red Bridge Farms Home Owners’ Association (HOA), noted that the HOA received a letter in 2009 from Pocopson Township outlining required repairs to the bridge.

Although repairs have been made regarding stream erosion, Hiss said there has been no action on addressing the integrity of the bridge.  Hiss made the inquiry because he said the Red Bridge Farms HOA would like to replace stone veneer on the four corners of the bridge which has deteriorated over time. He said the HOA cannot proceed until the township replaces the rotting wooden guiderails, posts and horizontal rails.

Hiss asked the Supervisors to make the project a priority for both safety and aesthetics.

Pocopson Township Engineer, Jim Hatfield, addressed the concerns saying there are several issues involved. First, replacement of the rotting wood with the same material would not meet current Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) specifications.  According to Hatfield, “If the rails are replaced with wood, PennDOT would continue to rate the bridge as substandard.” He explained, “Replacement should be a high priority” but the township hasn’t made progress because of safety, aesthetics and cost concerns.

The second issue is PennDOT’s inspection report requesting approach guiderails be installed, which he said would obstruct any view of stone veneer. However, Hatfield stated he will ask for a design waiver to this requirement since he doesn’t perceive a safety concern at this location.

The final issue is the state’s “scour analysis” on the bridge has increased. Scour, according to the US Department of Agriculture, is “the erosion or removal of streambed or bank material from bridge foundations due to flowing water” and is the most common cause of highway bridge failures in the United States.

In the case of the Red Bridge Farms’ bridge, Hatfield said since the stream approaches the bridge on an angle, each time there’s a heavy rain; the water rushes the northeast corner of the bridge structure.  He said the water is too deep at that area for a conventional repair and cited other options. One option is to build a dam upstream and then pipe the water around the bridge – bypassing the project area, and the other is to have the township hire professional divers.

Hatfield’s recommendation to the Supervisors is that the bridge railing should be fixed first since it is more pressing matter at this point.

The township does have to come up with a Scour Plan of Action. Hatfield said the Public Works Department must outline plans to inspect the structure during any storm or high water and then immediately after the high water subsides. This action allows officials to assess any change in the bridge’s integrity and reduce the risk of a bridge failure.

Supervisors’ Vice-Chair, Georgia Brutscher asked Hatfield to have a professional services contract prepared for the next meeting on April 9th.  Brutscher said she would like to see construction ready designs prepared for the project by June.

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