A new Division Street bridge will be constructed over Solomon Creek in Hanover Township and Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri announced Friday morning at the site where the span once stood.
The old bridge was demolished in 2014 after partially collapsing into the creek. Residents of that neighborhood have complained about bottlenecks and hazardous driving by motorists cutting through side streets to escape congestion caused by the bridge elimination.
The $1.675 million in bridge replacement funding is part of the second batch of $15 million in municipal infrastructure awards from a county community development business loan fund that is no longer in high demand.
Pedri recently announced the first round of $5.8 million in infrastructure awards in the Hazleton area and said two more will be presented in the near future.
Friday’s announcement covered $4.65 million in projects. In addition to the Division Street Bridge, the following will be funded:
• $400,000 for rehabilitation of the Oxford Street Bridge, which also crosses Solomon Creek in Hanover Township.
• $278,704 to pave Division Street.
• $135,741 to build an ADA-accessible playground at 104 Lee Park Ave. in Hanover Township — a site that once held a fire station that has been demolished.
• $400,000 for flood drain improvements in Ashley.
• $1.398 million for new sidewalks and curbing on Main Street in the Glen Lyon section of Newport Township.
• $366,100 for Plymouth street improvements.
Pedri noted the federal funding he was allocating cannot be used for county general fund operating expenses. County administrators opted to provide grants because the federal government does not want large pools of community development office funds sitting unused in the bank.
The Division Street replacement should be completed within two years, Pedri said.
The bridge is located in Hanover Township and Wilkes-Barre. Township Manager Sam Guesto said the township will take ownership of the new bridge and enter into an agreement with the city to share maintenance and repair expenses.
The township also will assume ownership of the county-owned Oxford Street Bridge when that work is completed. Guesto said he does not expect the new infrastructure to burden township taxpayers because engineers have concluded both spans will have a 70-year life expectancy.
Pedri has said he will offer funding priority to projects that will reduce the county’s road and bridge inventory.
During Friday’s gathering, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George said Division Street Bridge problems date to the 1990s and are now being addressed because municipalities and the county are working together.
“No man is an island,” George said.
Bill Williams, a resident of Keith Street in Hanover Township, attended the announcement and welcomed the news, saying traffic in his neighborhood has been “horrendous” since the Division Street span was shut down.
Ashley officials have been pushing for the drainage project for 28 years, said borough council Chairman John Gibbons.
The borough received $3.8 million in state funding but needed the county share to help fund the movement of utilities and repaving of roads in the area of the project, he said.
The project will channel Sulfur Run through a wide underground culvert that runs through the borough and feeds into Solomon Creek, he said. The tributary now runs through a combination of culverts, pipes and banks that are deteriorating, clogged and not designed to handle the increased flow during heavy rain or snow melts, which leads to flooding.
Gibbons said the 1-square-mile borough is solvent but did not have the resources to fund the portion to be covered by the county.
“We’re just finally thrilled we can help the citizens take care of this problem that’s been around for three decades,” said Gibbons.
Newport Township officials, also in attendance, said the infrastructure work will improve safety and the appearance of a busy thoroughfare in the distressed Glen Lyon section. They also plan to address several blighted properties along Main Street.
In addition, nine roads in Plymouth will be repaired and resurfaced with the county funding.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.