The first in a series of traffic shifts and lane and walkway closures is scheduled to begin next week for a rehabilitation project at the Northampton Street Toll-Supported Bridge (“the free bridge”) between Easton, PA. and Phillipsburg, NJ.
As early as Wednesday morning, March 16, the bridge’s upstream lane and adjoining walkway are expected to be shut down. Vehicular traffic would then be restricted to single lanes in each direction on the bridge’s downstream side. Only the downstream pedestrian walkway would be open. Wednesday’s lane shutdown is scheduled to begin after the morning peak driving period ends, sometime after 9:00 a.m.
This shifted travel pattern is scheduled to remain in place without interruption until early July, providing a safely cordoned work area for a contractor to rehabilitate the upstream portion of the bridge. When this initial stage of work is completed, a similar traffic and pedestrian-access shift will be made to the bridge’s upstream side to create a barricaded work zone downstream. A third work stage will later be conducted in the center area of the bridge.
Easton-bound motorists are likely to experience periodic delays during peak travel periods when two-lane travel patterns are in effect due to the temporary elimination of a dedicated left-turn lane on the bridge’s Pennsylvania side.
The upcoming bridge rehabilitation project is intended to address a series of 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 railings.
- Repainting of the bridge superstructure.
The project contractor has been making preparations in the area of the bridge since November, occasionally employing daytime single-lane closures. This preliminary work has included repositioning overhead security cameras, taking measurements, and installing temporary shielding/work platforms below the bridge. The golden state monuments atop the towers near both ends of the bridge also have been removed and sent out for re-gilding; they will be reinstalled toward the end of the project.
Once project activities get fully underway next week, work will be taking place on the bridge, at the bridge’s approaches, and at the bridge’s masonry abutments. The bridge was last rehabilitated in 2001.
All of the uninterrupted project-related travel restrictions are expected to end later this year. Final project completion is expected in spring 2023.
The project’s construction contract 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 nearby Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge between 2013 and 2015. The project is funded through the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) capital program, which is ultimately financed through the tolls the agency collects at its eight toll bridges.
More information on the project is available at www.drjtbc.org/project/freebridge.
The 550-foot-long, 36-foot-wide bridge is the Commission’s busiest non-toll crossing. It carried a daily average of 16,500 vehicles (both directions) in 2021.
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 the DRJTBC’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 Easton Delaware Bridge Company operated the structure as a toll bridge until August 3, 1921, when the bridge was sold to the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania for $300,000 in a transaction facilitated by the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges – Pennsylvania-New Jersey. The DRJTBC began managing the bridge on behalf of the two states after being established in late 1934. The states conveyed ownership of the bridge to the DRJTBC on July 1, 1987.