Bridge to happiness

The Frankford Ave. bridge over Pennypack Creek is open again.

Officially open: City and state officials cut the ribbon on the new bridge carrying Frankford Avenue over Pennypack Creek. The bridge closed for repair in March. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

When the bridge carrying Frankford Avenue over Pennypack Creek closed for repairs on March 26, the inconvenience was pretty great.

Though the road was closed for only one block, from Solly Avenue to Ashburner Street, motorists, pedestrians and the SEPTA Route 66 trackless trolley had to make long detours because Pennypack Park surrounds the area.

Businesses were affected, too.

So, last week, when the bridge reopened, a lot of people were happy.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said state Rep. Mike Driscoll.

The stone-arch bridge is the oldest bridge still in use in the country.

Loftus Construction Inc., of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, was the general contractor on the project, which cost $2.5 million. The federal government paid 80 percent of the costs, with the state funding the rest.

No long faces: The first vehicle to go across the newly opened bridge was a horse-drawn carriage carrying (from left) state Sen. John Sabatina Jr., PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards and state Rep. Ed Neilson. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

The project included the removal and rebuilding of walls; the excavation and replacement of the arch backfill with lightweight concrete; repointing of stone masonry throughout the structure; sidewalk reconstruction; and cleaning and painting the pedestrian railings.

Also, the utilities were moved to make maintenance and repairs easier.

The work has resulted in the removal of the bridge’s 20-ton weight restriction.

The bridge was built in 1697 and reconstructed in 1893. It is 73 feet long, 50 feet wide and carries almost 15,000 vehicles a day. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A news conference took place on Sept. 7 in the park, followed by a ribbon cutting on the road. Driscoll was joined by state Sen. John Sabatina Jr.; state Rep. Ed Neilson; City Councilman Bobby Henon; PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards; city Departments of Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams; and representatives of Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, state Sen. Tina Tartaglione and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

Richards noted that some historians have said George Washington and John Adams might have used the bridge. She thanked the community and businesses for their understanding.

“We understand it was an inconvenience,” she said.

Dining Car owner Nancy Morozin was at the ceremony and certainly happy her customers south of Solly Avenue will be able to take a direct route to the restaurant.

TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Driscoll said he hopes revenue streams return for the businesses that lost customers during the project, which he described as a delicate process to preserve the historical significance of the bridge. Everyone in attendance, he said, is a part of history.

Sabatina, minority party chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, noted that the bridge might have been a route for the Continental Congress.

“We have history right here in Northeast Philadelphia,” he said.

Williams described the bridge as state of the art, even though it was built more than 320 years ago.

Neilson, a member of the House Transportation and Game & Fisheries committees, said the bridge and park both could use investments. He thanked SEPTA for providing free tokens and passes.

Henon said things are looking up in the area. Besides the new bridge, he noted the efforts of the Holmesburg Civic Association and the newly formed Holmesburg Community Development Corporation. He also pointed to historians such as Fred Moore, the King’s Highway Foundation and the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

The councilman is happy to see the bridge reopen so he can have a direct route to take his sons to their classes at Pat’s Music Center. Moreover, the bridge links Torresdale, Holmesburg and Mayfair.

“We missed it,” he said. “It’s a connector.”

Richards, Sabatina and Neilson rode in a horse-drawn carriage, the first vehicle to cross the newly opened bridge. They were flanked by two police mounted patrol horses.

The final act before motor vehicles could begin to use the bridge was for Richards, Sabatina, Driscoll, Neilson and Henon to remove the giant sign that read, “This bridge to be closed for construction 3/26/18.” ••