WILKES-BARRE — With no work to show on site, there’s been considerable activity underway in preparation for a new bridge on North Washington Street in the city’s North End.
Wilkes-Barre’s Director of Operations Butch Frati provided an update Friday on the progress to replace the bridge that’s been closed to vehicle and foot traffic since 2013 when it was declared structurally unsafe.
The bridge has cleared a number of hurdles from undertaking the preliminary design to getting it on the list of projects the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wants to build sooner rather than later.
“I’m optimistic we will begin final design for this bridge in 2022,” said Frati, who also serves as the Deputy City Administrator. He added it could be put out for bid later that year.
Councilman John Marconi whose District E includes the bridge has been asking about the project’s status.
“I certainly feel it should be expedited because our emergency vehicles will be able to get to parts of the city a little quicker,” Marconi said.
At the Nov. 23 City Council meeting Mayor George Brown said he would pass along to Marconi and the other Council members what he learned from the scheduled phone conversation he and members of his administration had the next day with PennDOT officials. Council’s next meeting is on Dec. 7.
As it stands, Frati said the city is waiting to hear back about the purpose and need statement its project engineer Alfred Benesch & Co. submitted to PennDOT’s District 4-0 Engineering office in Dunmore about a month ago. It looks at environmental and historical aspects of the project and lays out the reasons why it’s needed.
Frati said the local PennDOT reviewed it and forwarded it to the main office in Harrisburg and the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA is providing 80% of the estimated $2.8 million cost, PennDOT 15% and the city 5%.
“We’re still about 30 days from getting this resolved,” Frati said. Upon resolution, the preliminary engineering phase will be done and the project next moves into the final design phase.
One design element is additional clearance of approximately two feet for the rail line that runs under the bridge, Frati said. The active line is owned by the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority. R.J. Corman acquired the Luzerne and Susquehanna Railway Co. that operated on the short line used for moving freight.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.