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Upper Makefield ratchets up bridge-preservation push


Upper Makefield officials have intensified efforts to protect what they say is the historic character of the Washington Crossing Bridge and buildings near the 119-year-old span, which marks the famous spot where Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night en route to a Revolutionary War victory at the Battle of Trenton.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, the township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow Jeff Marshall to broaden the scope of research that’s ultimately aimed at getting the bridge placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As part of the larger study approved by supervisors, Marshall will also now be assessing certain buildings/houses with an eye to determining if they are eligible for enhanced protection against change/development given their potentially historic character. The board had previously contracted with Marshall, a historic preservation expert and former president of the Heritage Conservancy, to assess the bridge itself.

Based on what Marshall’s research finds, application could be made to get the bridge and possibly other structures on the Historic Register. Much more rigorous standards must be met to alter structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s just that added protection that supervisors and at least some township residents want after learning earlier this year that the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission is considering replacing the Washington Crossing Bridge with possibly a bigger, broader, more modern span.

DRJTBC’s plans are far from finalized. Residents and supervisors have been attending the organization’s monthly meetings of late to express opposition to a major bridge overhaul.

Supervisor Chair Yvette Taylor said that at the DRJTBC meeting in May, township officials asked that the organization’s request for proposal (RFP) to contractors interested in tackling bridge improvements be amended to include a clause that stipulates any work done should not alter the structure’s historic character.

Taylor also noted that officials are working to involve state-level representatives and senators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in protection efforts.

Both Taylor and Supervisor Tom Cino encouraged residents to keep turning out in numbers, either in person or virtually, at the DRJTBC meetings.

“It really makes a difference,” said Cino.

Added Taylor: “Tell all your friends and we will see you there.”

The next DRJTBC meeting is June 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the commission’s administration building, 1199 Woodside Road, Yardley, PA 19067.

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