The contractor hired to rehabilitate the iconic Northampton Street Toll-Supported Bridge (“the free bridge”) between Easton and Phillipsburg is expected to begin preparatory work at and near the bridge next week, according to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
Anticipated project tasks during late fall and winter are not expected to impact commuters, although there could be occasional short-term off-peak lane restrictions that won’t require detours.
Early work will involve installation of temporary lighting on the bridge’s road deck and pedestrian walkways before the current lighting systems are disconnected. The contractor also will be mobilizing equipment and materials, installing temporary surveillance cameras, and initiating electrical work in the area of the bridge monitor’s shelter on the Easton side.
Prolonged traffic impacts for the roughly 18-month-long project are expected to begin until late winter/early spring when temperatures warm up and work crews can start preparing the bridge’s upstream truss for repainting. More information will be provided before any sustained traffic restrictions begin.
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 project is intended to address deficiencies cited in recent biennial bridge inspections and a 2020 concept study.
The major work tasks 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.
Work will take place on the bridge, at the bridge’s approaches, and at the bridge’s masonry abutments. Any protracted project-related travel restrictions are expected to end in 2022. All project work currently is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023.
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 construction contract for the project was unanimously awarded in late September 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 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. 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