Four steel bridges that have been on Luzerne County’s high priority list since at least 2012 will be rehabilitated this year using natural gas funding the county has been stockpiling, county Manager C. David Pedri informed council this week.
Three of these county-owned bridges have been closed due to structural damage — the Daro Road and Everetts Corners Road bridges over Huntington Creek in Huntington Township and the Bridge Road Bridge over Wapwallopen Creek in Hollenback Township.
The fourth is the Hollow Road Bridge over the Wapwallopen in Conyngham Township.
The county has been saving its annual bridge repair allocations from Act 13 Marcellus Shale Funding for several years in case an emergency arises, but Pedri said Thursday he is now comfortable tackling priority projects now that a council majority has approved a $5 vehicle registration fee.
Set to take effect in September, this fee on 281,000 vehicles will generate an estimated $1.4 million to repair the county’s 302 bridges and approximately 125.3 miles of roads. Council added a provision automatically ending the fee if a state match of up to $2 million for bridges is not continued for a second year.
County Councilman Stephen A. Urban and some other fee critics have questioned the need for additional revenue when the county is sitting on nearly $2.73 million in Act 13 bridge funding.
Work on the four bridges will cost a combined $1.2 million.
Pedri said he is assessing which structurally deficient bridges will be addressed with the remaining $1.5 million in Act 13 funding accrued to date.
“Council’s passage of the vehicle fee allows us to be more proactive with smaller projects. I’m very pleased our engineers made the decision to fix these smaller bridges and make them safe,” Pedri said.
County Engineer Lawrence Plesh, who oversees bridge repairs, said the four spans were selected because they provide the most direct access to properties in these rural areas.
The four will still have weight limits ranging from 3 to 10 tons after rehabilitation, he said. Funding is not available for more expensive bridge replacements, and Plesh said he would not support that option. Repairs that keep the roads accessible for local and emergency vehicles are warranted, he said.
“If there’s a fire or emergency, and the quickest route is over these bridges, then they need to be serviced,” Plesh said. “We don’t want to put lives in danger.”
Some details about the four bridges along with the estimated repair costs:
• Daro Road, 77 feet, built in 1924, $300,000
• Bridge Road, 82 feet, built in 1908, $350,000
• Everetts Corners Road, 68 feet, built in 1890, $300,000
• Hollow Road, 67 feet, built in 1920, $250,000
While permits have been obtained to start the work this year, Pedri said the county is awaiting PennDOT approval.
The state is not funding the work but must sign off on all Act 13 bridge projects, Plesh said.
Pedri plans to focus on at least one major bridge project in 2019 using the vehicle fee revenue and match. The county should start receiving the funding in December.
The decision will be based on the amount of funding, traffic count and safety concerns, he said. He also has offered priority to municipalities, such as Butler Township, that are willing to accept ownership of repaired infrastructure to reduce the county’s inventory.
Additional funding may be available from a portion of the $15 million in county community development funds to be earmarked for infrastructure, primarily in low- and moderate-income areas, Pedri has said. That money comes from a business development loan fund that is no longer in high demand.
Pedri’s proposed capital plan, submitted to council for its consideration this week, lists 16 other bridges on the roster from 2019 through 2021 that may be funded through the state, community development loan fund and other sources.
These bridges, along with the estimated repair costs, according to his plan:
• Plymouth Township — Nanticoke/West Nanticoke Bridge, $5 million
• Pittston/West Pittston — Fire Fighters’ Memorial Bridge on Water Street, $4 million
• Hollenback Township — Ridge Road, $150,000; Kingsbury Road, $1.2 million
• Hanover Township — West Liberty Street, $1.5 million; Oxford Street, $300,000; a replacement Division Street Bridge also in Wilkes-Barre, $1.4 million
• Butler Township — Sleepy Hollow Road, $1.5 million; Deep Hole Road, $1.2 million; three bridges on Honey Hole Road totaling $1.65 million
• Huntington Township — Hubbard Road, $2 million; Ftorkowski Road, $2 million
• Sugarloaf Township — East County Road, $400,000; Mountain Road, $350,000
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.