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Commission looks to replace Washington Crossing Bridge


Calling the 119-year-old span “operationally challenged,” the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission is floating a plan to replace the Washington Crossing Toll-Supported Bridge, which crosses the Delaware River, connecting Upper Makefield and Hopewell N.J.

The commission issued a statement Wednesday morning indicating that, by June, it plans to hire a consulting firm to perform an environmental review and identify and study obstacles to building a new bridge. The consultant’s work would take several years to complete, the statement suggested, and it’d likely be 2027 before the commission would be ready to initiate permitting, acquisition and design for the new bridge.

“The current Washington Crossing Bridge has been a bane to generations of motorists,” the statement read. “It is the narrowest of the commission’s 18 vehicular bridges, with a 15-foot-wide roadway that often forces motorists to a crawl in 7.5-foot-wide lanes — one in each direction. In comparison, the width of an interstate highway travel lane is 12 feet.”

It went on to say minor fender-benders and broken sideview mirrors are frequently reported by its users. It also has a three-ton weight restriction and carried an average of 7,200 vehicles per day last year.

The existing bridge “has experienced structural deterioration and does not meet current design standards, which creates reliability and safety concerns.”

Commission officials said its goal is to “improve mobility and provide a safe and reliable river crossing for vehicles and pedestrians.”

The bridge has been publicly owned and operated without a toll since 1922. The commission has owned it since 1987.

While a do-nothing option will be considered, the consultant’s job will center on shepherding a potential replacement project through the National Environmental Policy Act process, which considers the potential consequences to the environment of building a new span and making its findings available to the public.

It is the hope of the commission that the consultant’s work will result in a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” a federally recognized designation that’d allow the project to move into the design and construction phases.

The current steel, double-Warren-truss Washington Crossing Bridge opened to traffic in 1905. It was constructed by the long defunct New Jersey Bridge Company of Manasquan and originally owned by the Taylorsville Delaware and Washington Crossing bridge companies.

It was preceded by a wooden covered bridge that was destroyed during the “Pumpkin Flood” of October 1903, according to the commission’s statement.

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