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Happy Day!

Stop cussing and keep driving! You can now get there from here.

Holme Avenue no longer is closed between Convent Avenue and Arthur Street, so the more than 22,000 motorists who have been muttering about detours every day since June can stop gritting their teeth and sail through.

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The roadway’s bridge over Conrail tracks west of Convent had been closed for repairs, but it reopened to traffic during the afternoon of Oct. 25 — months earlier than expected. The initial completion projection was well into 2012.

The seriousness of the old bridge’s structural woes actually helped the work to accelerate, said Gene Blaum, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

If a bridge can be repaired while a lane of traffic is open, that’s how a PennDOT contractor will do the job, Blaum explained. However, the Holme Avenue bridge was in such sad shape that it was in danger of collapse. It had to be completely — and suddenly — closed to all traffic in late June.

What became motorists’ daily hassle since then was a boon of sorts to the contractor, Buckley & Company Inc., whose crews could work faster without the interference of traffic, Blaum said.

Last week, neighbors on Holme Avenue’s eastbound side brought out a bottle of champagne to toast the Buckley crew as well as the bridge’s completion.

“I doubt these guys made any money on this job,” said Bob Hubler, who lives just a few houses from the bridge. “They worked some twelve-hour days. That’s a lot of overtime.”

Hubler added that neighborhood youths had vandalized construction vehicles that were parked overnight near the bridge. Someone stole power tools, too, he said.

The contractor worked six days a week, and sometimes seven, to get the bridge ready for traffic, Blaum said in a phone interview. Buckley, based at 34th and Moore streets, has a $5.8 million contract for the work.

Hubler and his wife Janet, as well as Lisa and Bridget Capanna and neighbors Loida Moreno and Jonathan Stillfield, 11, were outside their homes before 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 to cheer for Buckley’s crews. They got the same right back from the company’s owner, Bob Buckley, who said he couldn’t have asked for better cooperation from residents.

Not every neighbor was as patient with the inconvenience, noise and dirt that accompanied the work, Hubler said, but he added that Buckley employees were as accommodating to neighbors as they could be. Buckley put in new sidewalks, fixed driveways and even purchased car washes for residents whose vehicles were dirtied as the project progressed, Hubler explained.

On the flip side, neighborhood kids took cold drinks to workers during the summer and neighbors even hosted a couple of barbecues for the crews, Hubler said.

While Holme Avenue was closed, structural problems were spotted on an adjacent bridge that takes the street over the small Wood Run, and they were repaired too, Blaum said.

Although neighbors welcomed the road’s reopening last week, they saw something they could do without — speeding. The return of vehicles cruising the half mile or so from Holme Circle to Willits Road was pretty much immediate.

Stand on the Holme Avenue sidewalk and radar isn’t necessary to estimate the speeds of autos racing by. Neighbors were resigned, ready and just a bit sardonic about it. When the detour signs and traffic cones were removed, they showed Buckley’s crew a homemade black-and-white-checked sign that read, “Welcome to our speedway.” ••

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

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