A PennDOT update, on the restoration of Tinicum Township’s Headquarters Road crossing at Sheep Hole Road, posted on the township website on Apr. 23, says the project is progressing to significant near-term benchmarks, despite a lawsuit challenging PennDOT’s plan.
But a representative for the plaintiff in the lawsuit, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), said the statement “seems odd.” The bridge has been closed since April 2011.
DRN brought the lawsuit in federal court, alleging PennDOT did not perform due diligence on different options for restoring the crossing, insisting the 1812 one-lane bridge can be rehabilitated, instead of being replaced. It challenged PennDOT’s replacement plan, particularly regarding environmental preservation, and also noted concerns regarding mandated historic preservation, and maintained that new safety concerns would be introduced by the replacement.
In its statement posted by the township on Apr. 23, PennDOT said “despite the lawsuit levied against PennDOT and the Federal Highway Adminstration (FHWA),” it “anticipates finalizing engineering design activities and selecting a contractor this summer to begin construction…” with its “design team continuing to work diligently on the final engineering plans to construct a bridge that accommodates both the transportation needs of the community while remaining sensitive to its historic and environmental and cultural resources.”
The statement “seems odd,” said Maya Van Rossum. “Our federal challenge is ongoing. The project does not have needed permitting.”
“The Delaware Riverkeeper Network remains committed to protecting the community, the stream, and the historic resources at issue here. PennDOT would best serve the community by coming together with all concerned, including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, to advance a solution that protects all of these high priority interests.”
Tinicum Supervisor Rich Rosamilia, who has been serving as township liaison to PennDOT on the matter, said at a public board meeting a few months ago that he had recently heard a status report from PennDOT that closely resembles the statement that the township just posted, expressing concern at that time that he was concerned PennDOT might be moving to the bidding stage without having shared their final plans with the community.
That concern mirrored PennDOT’s own admission that it needed to do better in general at working with local authorities and stakeholders in pursuing its projects. The admission was reflected in their establishment of a formal initiative in that regard, which was announced by the state transportation secretary.
Rosamilia has also repeatedly charged that DRN backed out of a commitment to meet with PennDOT toward resolving their differences, engineer-to-engineer. Supporters of preserving the bridge instead of replacement have countered that there had been “several meetings like that” in the past, and that “PennDOT did not come with an open mind.”