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Sellersville bridge rehabilitation could take up to a year


Work to rehabilitate a bridge in Sellersville that serves as a primary route to the borough’s downtown could begin as early as next spring and take about a year to complete, officials said recently at a Sellersville Borough Council meeting.

During construction, the steel through-truss bridge would be closed, and traffic would be detoured, an engineer on the project told council and residents in attendance.

Steven Fellin, a senior project manager with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said the project is expected to cost approximately $3.6 million. State funds are paying for the rehabilitation, said Fellin, adding that PennDOT hopes to have a final design completed by October. PennDOT is orchestrating the project.

The bridge in question is a nearly 140-foot span that carries North Main Street over SEPTA railroad tracks near the East Church Street intersection.

The preliminary plan for detouring traffic would take vehicles along Route 563, to Route 309 and down to Route 152. While officials acknowledge there are faster ways around that locals and others in the know would likely utilize, the impetus behind the official detour was to use state roads. It’s possible the detour route can yet be tweaked – something residents can contact PennDOT about.

Brian Watson, an engineer from firm HDR who is consulting on the project, said that a partial closure that would allow for limited traffic flow isn’t feasible. In such a scenario, it wouldn’t be possible to guarantee the stability of the structure, he said.

Watson noted that the bridge is being rehabilitated, rather than replaced.

That’s due in large part to the fact that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission determined that steel material used in the bridge’s truss is of historic value and worthy of preservation, Watson said.

He further noted that the cost of rehabilitation and replacement is essentially the same, and that a full-scale replacement would likely take longer to complete, in part because of the demolition involved.

The bridge is at least 86 years old – and maybe older. Watson said Monday that it dates to 1932. Documents previously shared indicate that the bridge dates to 1927.

According to Watson, work will include repairs, largely cosmetic in nature, to the steel structure. Certain concrete encapsulation will be removed, and there will be repairs to supports. Contractors will also remove the bridge deck and pour a new one, in addition to some paving of road approaches to the bridge. Other work includes stripping paint and repainting the bridge black, the same color as the original structure, said Watson. PennDOT will also install guiderails.

Currently, the bridge has a posted weight limit for legal loads of 10 tons. That restricts commercial vehicles and large fire trucks. The rehabilitated bridge would be able to carry those bigger vehicles without issue.