On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Perkasie will witness an event that only happens every century or so – the opening of a new bridge on Walnut Street over the Perkiomen’s East Branch.
The ceremony at 11:30 a.m. is eagerly anticipated: Local residents sorely missed the former bridge for the past 14 months, after Bucks County, Perkasie Borough and contractors started building an impressive new three-span structure linking Perkasie’s Second and Third Wards.
This will be the third known bridge at the Walnut Street location. The first was an open wooden structure, built in 1867. Architect Adam Oscar Martin designed the second bridge, which opened in October 1907. In those times, it was known as the Branch Bridge. An estimated 2,300 barrels of cement were used to build the 1907 bridge.
In 1970, Martin’s bridge received a significant overhaul. Its roadway was widened, a sharp turn was eliminated, a sidewalk was added, and a traffic light was installed when it was reopened on Nov. 25, 1970, after being closed since the summer. Altemose Construction did the work at a cost of $72,000.
By 1988, the bridge was falling apart again, and Perkasie borough manager Paul Leonard said a new Walnut Street Bridge would be built in 1990, to be paid for by the state Department of Transportation. Leonard told the Allentown Morning Call that “the arches beneath the bridge are starting to crumble” and local fire trucks couldn’t use the bridge safely.
The bridge project stalled in the 1990s. And in March 2002, PennDOT decided the federal government needed to pay for the Perkasie bridge instead of the state. The project stalled again, and design changes made in 2007 to add railings and intersection improvements restarted a federal review process for another five-year period. After a few more years, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission scheduled construction starting in July 2018.
When that project appeared to stall yet again, Bucks County and the county commissioners stepped up to the plate to pay for the $5 million project, to be reimbursed by the state after its completion.
The new bridge is attractive, has better sidewalks and comes with a left-hand turn signal for northbound traffic. While I’ll miss Martin’s bridge, it’s time had come and the new bridge was needed. Thankfully, the Bucks County commissioners made the project happen – and on time.
We owe them a debt of gratitude, to be sure. On behalf of all Perkasie residents, we are all breathing a sigh of relief. We missed our bridge and are happy to have it back.
Scott Bomboy is a member of Perkasie Borough’s council and planning commission.