The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission Monday awarded two contracts for rehabilitating the iconic Northampton Street Toll-Supported Bridge (“the free bridge”) between Easton, PA. and Phillipsburg, NJ. and outfitting it with a color-changing LED lighting system that will highlight the bridge’s unique architectural profile.
Construction is expected to begin later this year, which is the 100th anniversary of when the bridge stopped operating as a privately owned tolled crossing and became a publicly owned structure without tolls.
The upcoming work will take place on the bridge, at the bridge’s approaches, and at the bridge’s masonry abutments. Vehicular travel impacts are anticipated, including fluctuating around-the-clock closures of one of the bridge’s three lanes and possible overnight closures of an additional lane. Every attempt is being made to maintain traffic at all times in the eastbound direction, which is the toll direction at the Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22) Toll Bridge immediately upstream.
The bridge is the Commission’s second oldest superstructure. It was constructed by the Union Bridge Company for the former Easton Delaware Bridge Company in 1895 and 1896, replacing a wooden bridge that had stood at the location for nearly 90 years. The bridge was last rehabilitated in 2001.
The forthcoming rehabilitation’s major construction elements are as follows:
- Replacement of approach sidewalks.
- Replacement of ornamental/sidewalk lighting.
- Addition of new architectural lighting elements.
- Replacement and upgrading of electrical systems.
- Replacement of deteriorating fiberglass walkway surfaces.
- Substructure and pylon repairs.
- Joint replacement.
- Re-anodizing of walkway railing and repainting of superstructure.
The project is intended to address deficiencies cited in recent biennial bridge inspections and a 2020 concept study.
The construction contract for the project was unanimously awarded to low-bidder J.D. Eckman, Inc. of Atglen, PA. for a not-to-exceed amount of $15,487,427.50. This is the same company that rehabilitated the Commission Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge between 2013 and 2015.
The Commission also approved a construction management/inspections contract award today, to Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, Inc. (JMT) of Philadelphia, PA. for a not-to-exceed amount of $1,554,986.16.
A firm start date for the project won’t be determined until contract papers are signed and the contractor submits required documents and an anticipated project schedule.
The Commission conducted a public-involvement process earlier this year to inform residents and motorists of the impending project and potential travel impacts during construction. A webpage was established as part of that process and can be viewed at www.drjtbc.org/freebridge.
The 550-foot-long, 36-foot-wide bridge is the Commission’s busiest non-toll crossing. It carried a daily average of 16,900 vehicles (both directions) in 2019 (pre-COVID) and 15,100 vehicles in 2020 (COVID). The bridge has a three-ton weight limit and a 15-mph speed limit. Bridge monitors are stationed at each end of the bridge on a 24/7 basis to prevent crossings of overweight vehicles.
The bridge is a cantilever truss that is designed to mimic the appearance of a suspension bridge. Largely because of its unique engineering and design, the Northampton Street Bridge is revered by bridge historians and engineers. For example, the online bridge history site – www.historicbridges.org – gives the structure a 10 rating on a scale of 10. Plaques affixed to the bridge’s truss affirm its status as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.