Built in the 1980s, Snow Hill Road Bridge in Allen Township is finally starting to show its age. Over the past four decades, the bridge over the Hokendauqua Creek tributary has developed cracks, settling, undermining, and other wear and tear that is worrying engineers.
An engineering report completed by Pickering, Corts, and Summerson outlined several improvements the bridge needs to enhance its safety and environmental impact. This report was presented to the Allen Township Board of Supervisors on February 23.
Undermining and erosion are the main damage the bridge has experienced over the years. Township engineer Stan Wojciechowski recommended backfilling some of the erosion and potentially realigning the stream channel to prevent further deterioration. However, the stream is on private property, which could pose legal issues in the future.
But erosion is not the only issue the bridge faces. In addition to settling on the roadway, the bridge’s concrete cells are shifting further apart, creating gaps and misalignment. The block wall of the bridge is eroding and the sides and roof of the bridge have several hairline cracks and areas of spalling. Meanwhile, the guardrails of the bridge do not meet PennDOT standards, a particularly tricky set of standards to meet as PennDOT does not issue guardrail designs.
“No matter what we do to this guardrail, they are always going to say it does not meet PennDOT standards,” added Wojciechowski. However, he said it is possible to install safer guardrails that will come closer to the PennDOT recommendation.
These improvements do not come without substantial costs. Wojciechowski estimated it would cost the township over $100,000 to renovate the bridge. Even then, he added that “the structure is going to continue to have aging problems.”
Wojciechowski recommended potentially looking into building a new bridge using funds that are awarded to townships through the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Program through Penn State University. The grant program helps provide funding for low-volume roads, which in turn helps eliminate the pollution and sedimentation these roads cause.
A new bridge would cost about $300,000 to build. However, as much as $200,000 could be awarded to the township through the grant program, making it possible for Allen Township to construct an entirely new bridge for the same cost it would take to repair the old bridge.
“You can get $200,000 and put a brand new [bridge] in for $300,000 if you are going to pay $100,000 anyway,” Wojciechowski said.
The program has been growing more popular, with applications currently being submitted for 2022. Experts at the program indicated to Wojciechowski that Snow Hill Road Bridge is the perfect candidate for the program, but it is possible for other municipalities to secure funding if the township does not apply soon.
Despite the outside funding, some supervisors believed the current bridge could possibly be saved.
“To me, for road construction, [40 years] is new,” Supervisor Gary Behler said of the bridge’s age.
“I think this thing could be fixed and saved,” added Supervisor Gerald Montanari. “I do not think it should be torn down and thrown away.”
However, all supervisors agreed that it would be easier to decide on the bridge’s fate after seeing the bridge for themselves. As a result, the issue was tabled and a meeting will be set up for supervisors to visit the bridge.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.