Friday, October 18, 2013

The Bridges of Montgomery County

If you live or have to travel anywhere near the now-barricaded Arcola Road Bridge, you might have read last week with great interest the list Montgomery County published enumerating the 19 structurally deficient bridges it has deemed a priority for repair. I know that, like me, many of you eagerly scoured said list, expecting to see the Arcola Road Bridge at or near the top. But alas, it was missing entirely.
I wondered why, as did many of you I’ve spoken to. Life post-closure in August has been painful, both for the people who regularly use the bridge and must now go well out of their way, and for the residents whose neighborhoods are impacted by additional traffic. The article the list appeared in neither asked nor answered the question as to where OUR bridge was in terms of the list and priorities, so I called Montgomery County’s Dept. of Assets and Infrastructure to see what they had to say.
The young lady who answered the phone explained that the list excluded the Arcola Road Bridge because it is already closed and the process of getting it replaced has already commenced. Those 19 bridges are on a separate RFP just approved by the County, and they’ve hired a consultant to help prioritize them.

She added that they have received a LOT of calls about this bridge. I'll BET they have!
"Ugh! These detours! WHEN will the Arcola Road Bridge be open again??"

Speaking of the bridge, at tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting, township manager Richard Gestrich tried to make it abundantly clear that it is a COUNTY-owned bridge, not a TOWNSHIP owned bridge. My guess is angry residents and travelers are blaming (incorrectly) township officials for the closure and delays in getting it replaced.  

Some updates shared at tonight’s meeting: LP Township officials are meeting biweekly with county officials and state Rep. Mike Vereb as to the status and progress of the project, along with ways to mitigate the pain in the meantime. They have discussed ways to mediate the traffic impacts and make recommendations to PennDOT as to how to rectify them.  The County has appointed Indian Valley Appraisers to meet with adjacent residents to secure rights-of-way to enable the start of construction.
Police Chief Bud Carroll mentioned that he has worked with PennDOT to resync the timing of the traffic light at the intersection of Pawlings Road, Park Avenue and Egypt Road to allow for better traffic flow by increasing the length of the cycle a little bit. Also, we were able to get PennDOT to free up some funds ($125,000!) for a traffic control device at the Perkiomen Bridge intersection that monitors traffic in real time to improve flow to and from Germantown and Ridge across that bridge.  The device is available to us now and we are awaiting its installation, which will hopefully allow us to see some relief from congestion. It’s expected to be in place on or about November 1.
The County now believes it can start the construction in January 2015 and conclude it by August 2016, shaving a good six months off prior time estimates.
All of the above is great, but here’s my question: I, like many of you, signed up at the County’s August Arcola Road Bridge meeting to receive email updates on the project. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t received ANYTHING from the County about this since then, especially not the part about the appraisers or shaving six months off. Transparent? I think not.  
Nice job, though, by our municipality to stay in the loop, have an active voice in what happens and be a part of solutions. Maybe the number of people blowing up their phones and email about this bridge will go down just a bit.


1 comment:

Janice Kearney said...

Rep. Mike Vereb told me this morning: "The secretary of PennDOT released 125,000 bucks at the request of Sen Rafferty and myself to install the light synchronization system that is a live traffic monitoring system that adjusts light timing live to traffic behavior. It should be installed by the end of this month. We not only have to keep pressure on the reconstruction, we have to focus on relief of stress and congestion that the closure has caused. Again I will not turn my back on this project". He also said that he has kept an email list of everyone who's contacted him about this in order to be able to update them on development. Nice job!