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There are several changes underway in Birdsboro, and while they present an inconvenience right now, borough officials agree the payoff will be worth it.
Two PennDOT construction projects continue in the borough: the replacement of the bridge over the Hay Creek on Main Street and the construction of the new Route 345 bridge over the Schuylkill River that links Route 422 with the borough. The projects have resulted in closed roads and detours.
“We want to thank everybody for their patience in dealing with the inconvenience,” said Borough Manager Aaron Durso. “It will make for a much nicer community when both bridges are done. People have been really good about it – and that says a lot about the community.”
Construction began in August on the Hay Creek bridge, with completion estimated for May of this year. Durso said in an interview last week the project has been going pretty well and has remained on time.
“And if the weather keeps cooperating, Clearwater said it could be done a little early. They are trying to get it done early and in fact will be laying beams for the decking this coming week. The footers and abutment are done, next is laying the beams,” Durso said.
In early December, Durso told Borough Council that the banks of Hay Creek had suffered some erosion. As a result, two parking spaces in the borough municipal lot and the Welcome to Birdsboro sign were lost. That issue has been addressed, and Durso said the spaces will be replaced at the end of the project and the borough will negotiate with the contractor, Clearwater Construction, to replace the sign.
Durso said he has been impressed with Clearwater Construction so far. “They have worked 10 hour days on this project,” Durso added. “They are a good company to work with.”
The larger and longer project is the new Route 345 bridge over the Schuylkill. Site prep work got underway in the fall, including the relocation of a borough water main and utility work. Since then, the former NAPA store on Route 345 has been demolished, and trees removed.
“They have made good progress and will soon get into the meat of the construction because site work is almost done,” Durso said. “People are really getting an idea of where the new bridge will be located.”
The $14.5 million project was originally slated for completion in May 2014, but Durso said it will likely be a bit beyond that date.
“They are crossing a river and railroad tracks to build it; that’s what makes it complicated,” Durso said.
The two projects have meant some inconvenience for residents and motorists who need to get into and around Birdsboro. The new bridge over the Schuylkill River is being built next to the existing bridge, so that roadway remains in use. Once over the bridge, however, Main Street is closed in the area of the Hay Creek, with the main detour route being East and West First Street. Durso said that after the first month or so of adjustment, things seemed to settle down.
“We’re not getting as many complaints as we were,” Durso said. “All the trucks understand the detour now, so we’re not seeing as much truck traffic.” A complicating factor, according to Durso was the fact that I-176 was part of the detour and then PennDOT launched a construction project on that roadway, with its own traffic pattern changes. Durso said some of the truck drivers told them they just got lost.
He added that the main issues in the early days of the construction had to do with speed and traffic.
“People were saying they can’t get from one side of town as quickly as they used to, and people are not as patient, especially during heavy traffic hours,” Durso said.
Residents complained to police about speeding along East and West First Street. Speed signs have been placed on the roadway and Durso said the police patrol the area heavily. And along with speed, residents expressed concern about the safety of school children at the bus stops, especially along that main detour route.
“Most of what I’m hearing about the two bridges under construction are reactions that range from curiosity, fascination and marveling at the immense amount of work that’s being done, to irritation with the disruption and inconvenience of having to take a detour from a more direct route in order to get from the east end of town to the west, or vice versa,” said Birdsboro Mayor Robert Myers.
Additionally, Myers said he has heard from some of the businesses in the area that their business has been negatively impacted by the projects.