Last night, I presented an update on the South Perkasie Covered Bridge to the Perkasie Historical Society. I didn’t have prepared notes but here is where the project stands as of October 6, 2021.
As most of you know, the historic 1832 bridge moved mostly off its abutments early on September 2, 2021 in the flooding related to Hurricane Ida.
Our early assessment of the bridge site showed the flood waters were 18 inches above its deck. In the August 4, 2020 flood, the waters had just reached the deck before receding. During Ida, the flood waters moved the bridge about 15 feet to the north in Lenape Park. The bridge was left resting with one side on the ground and the other on what remained of the abutments. We also believed the electrical conduit for the lights inside the bridge helped to tether the bridge and prevented a catastrophic event.
On September 3, Perkasie Borough started working on a plan to get the bridge level again, off the ground, and secured in place for its future rehabilitation. On September 7, Borough Council approved the use of funds, under Mayor Hollenbach’s emergency declaration, not to exceed $50,000 for the project.
Because of the need to make the bridge’s location safe to the public, we expedited the project. Jim Purcell from Borough Council and our Public Works Director Jeff Tulone worked with Ambrose Rigging, the Timber Framers Guild and Arnold M. Graton Associates on the stabilization plan for about a week. On September 14, 2020, the bridge was slowly lifted by two 45-ton forklifts, and wooden cribbing was placed under the bridge to level the structure. Over the next week, the team added a wire support system anchored to cement blocks.
For now, the covered bridge is stable and well-supported. The next steps for Perkasie Borough are to put the project out to bid to get a final estimated cost. This will include timber restoration and the creation of new abutments, and possibly moving the bridge.
As part of that process Perkasie Borough must determine if the South Perkasie Covered Bridge can remain in its current location without incurring future flood damage. If the bridge is moved, the Borough could lose its $100,000 state grant to rehab the bridge because it may no longer be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Borough will keep researching the location issue and also continue talks with the state Historic Preservation Office about the National Register issue. There is also agreement among four experts that the covered bridge can be fully rehabilitated and that the timber structure is intact. However, the new abutments should be at least two to three feet higher, with tie-downs to connect the bridge to the abutments.
For now, we hope to start the rehabilitation project in the late spring/early summer of 2022, with extensive planning underway before the physical construction starts.
Until then, Perkasie Borough will concentrate of the bid process for the plan and subsequent contractors, and then the funding need to complete the project. So far, the Perkasie Historical Society and Perkasie Borough have raised $217,000 dedicated to the covered bridge.