FeatureIn This IssueTransportation

Historic Howellville Road Bridge Receives Upgrade

The new steel truss bridge provides a wider bridge deck and more space, enhancing safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians

By Yvonne Nguyen

Beginning in 2014, Tredyffrin Township worked in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Tioga County to construct a brand new bridge to replace a historic 1879 iron truss bridge. The new steel truss bridge, completed mid-2021, carries Howellville Road over Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks and is 30-feet wide in total –  with two 10-feet lanes and two 5-feet shoulders, providing a wider bridge deck and more space, enhancing safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The newly constructed Howellville Road Bridge is owned and maintained by Tredyffrin Township. The bridge is a hot dipped zinc coated steel structure, which will decrease Township maintenance requirements and increase the life expectancy compared to a weathered steel truss structure.

Tredyffrin worked closely with Norfolk-Southern, the largest intermodal rail network in eastern North America, throughout the seven year duration as the Township developed plans, coordinated all the moving parts and planned for construction activities to remove and replace the bridge.

With the bridge located and crossing overhead of active Norfolk-Southern railroad lines, the project required years of coordination from conception to construction to get all the necessary approvals, permits, easements and construction access required for the new bridge project. 

The Township also worked with PennDOT to review the structurally deficient and functionally obsolete old bridge, and determine the need for replacement of the structure. They also worked to obtain a retro-reimbursement grant funding up to 80% of the costs of the entire project.

Tredyffrin coordinated with the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) for the replacement of the bridge and the designation of ownership and responsibility between Tredyffrin Township and Norfolk-Southern. PECO, a local electric and gas provider, and third-party communications companies were consulted and responsible for the relocations of overhead power lines, poles and utility lines ahead of the start of bridge removal and replacement. 

Finally, the Township worked with Tioga County and PennDOT to transfer ownership of the bridge to the Township and the transportation of the old iron bridge trusses to Tioga County, where it will be repurposed in a future pedestrian trail bridge project rather than disposed of in a landfill.

The Township selected Lobar Site Development as the prime contractor for the removal and replacement of the Howellville Roadbridge over Norfolk-Southern. Initially, bridge construction was set to start immediately following the removal of the original bridge. However, plans were derailed by Covid shutdowns, resulting in PECO and the township contractor delaying and rescheduling their ongoing projects. 

In order to protect the areas surrounding the bridge from extreme weather, the project included the construction of a stormwater drainage system that collects roadway runoff down the steep railroad embankments to the bottom where there is a drainage swale to convey the water lessening erosion, scour and uncontrolled runoff. 

As to be expected with projects of this magnitude, funding was one of the objectives that needed to be addressed. Tredyffrin Township coordinated and worked with Norfolk-Southern, PennDOT and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors to identify the cost and determine the best way to split the expenses associated with a bridge repair.  

In the end, the project was completed within budget with the Township providing 20% funding and PennDOT/Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) providing 80% through the Municipal Bridge Retro-Reimbursement Program. Norfolk-Southern provided funding to Tredyffrin Township for the bridge replacement. 

While the bulk of the project timeline consisted of planning and coordination among all the departments involved, the construction timeline was flexible; the original contract completion date of late 2020 was exceeded and the project was completed on July 1, 2021 due to utility relocation delays and severe weather events, as well as COVID-19 shutdowns.

COVID-19 protocols were incorporated into the contractors’ plans, as required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chester County and PennDOT. Due to many factors, including utility provider delays and severe weather events, the project was delayed but the Township, through constant follow-up and communication, coordinated with all parties to ensure utility relocations were completed by the providers and construction of the new bridge progressed in a timely manner.

The Howellville Road Bridge Replacement Project is a good example of how working together with various entities and partners can lead to a successful end product. Despite the delays and restrictions, the team met their objective and created a brand new Howellville Road Bridge – a remarkably better, safer and more functional bridge with a reinforced structure that maintains the features of an old railroad crossing. The modern truss bridge will serve the community for years to come.

Yvonne Nguyen is the Assistant Editor of Builder and Developer. She can be reached at yvonne@builder.media.

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