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PennDOT to hold Headquarters Road bridge until lawsuits are pulled


Just when it seemed safe for Tinicum residents to breathe a sigh of relief after their township supervisors resolved to pursue an agreement to privately cover the cost of rehabilitating Headquarters Road bridge, PennDOT has suddenly refused to turn the closed span back over to the township.

After providing ongoing rehab progress updates to residents at the April 2 board meeting, Chair Eleanor Breslin took a deep breath, stating, “well, that was the good news.”

She then announced that the board had received a letter from the Delaware Riverkeepers Network, addressed to federal Judge Gene Pratter, who had overseen some litigation during the battle over whether to rebuild or rehabilitate the bridge.

The letter requested mediation in the network’s longstanding PennDOT lawsuit.

In response, PennDOT officials sent a letter that showed a willingness to take part in an April 25 mediation session.

However, they also laid out several stipulations that would essentially halt Tinicum’s rehabilitation plans.

Breslin read aloud from the PennDOT letter that “it is our (PennDOT’s) decision there will be no turnback of the bridge unless all current litigation is withdrawn and all future claims, whatever they may be, be waived.”

In addition to the Riverkeepers suit, landowner Steve Gidumal is also suing PennDOT.

“Gidumal must withdraw all his current claims, but he also must waive any future claims he may choose to bring against PennDOT,” said Breslin.

Breslin said PennDOT’s surprise request puts the township in an untenable situation.

“We, as a township, can only make our own decisions, we cannot make them for a third party,” Breslin said. “We each have a given right as citizens to protect our individual property issues.”

“Simply put, it does not seem PennDOT is going to allow the township to solve this problem for our community, rather it is just more of the same from them.”

PennDOT’s position is in direct conflict with transportation department representative Ryan Whittington’s statements at a February township meeting.

At that time, Supervisor John Cole asked Whittington if PennDOT “had any fundamental opposition to Tinicum taking over the bridge.”

Whittington stated he had no problem at all with a turnback agreement provided the agency was notified before advertising for contractor bids in late April.

PennDOT’s attempt to block the bridge turnback, Breslin said, won’t change the township’s intentions to rehabilitate — rather than rebuild — the bridge. The board instructed the township engineer and solicitor to get the project to the point where it is ready to be bid out.

“We know with litigation, things can change, new issues can come up, others can go away, but this township will be fully positioned to act if and when we have the opportunity to do so,” Breslin said.

Gidumal confirmed he remains on board with the Woodtiger-funded rehabilitation plan, apart from PennDOT’s request to drop the litigation over his assertion of a fraudulent land easement.

“They are desperate to stop this suit, and I am determined to recover my extensive litigation costs,” Gidumal said. “I say to PennDOT, just put your big boy pants on and let’s keep litigating.”

Gidumal will be a part of a Thursday mediation session with the Riverkeepers, according to Breslin.

“We’ll see what happens,” he sighed. “Maybe there will be a resolution. I think they hold a lot of liability here and, if I were them, I’d settle.”

The Woodtiger Fund has reportedly delivered an initial $1 million, now deposited into a new township account.

“We are in a position to get this started,” said Breslin.

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