MILFORD BOROUGH, NJ (Hunterdon County) – The bi-state Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) Monday announced that it plans to release a series of archival bridge films that had been stored at the agency’s former headquarters in Morrisville, PA.
The old film footage was recently digitized and the first reel – depicting the June 1933 demolition of the former wooden covered bridge between Upper Black Eddy, PA. and Milford, N.J. – is scheduled to premiere on the agency’s YouTube channel on Thursday, Sept. 22.
The link for the film footage can be found at: https://youtu.be/l1PmnPQtBbM
The soon-to-be-released silent footage shows a variety of tasks, including pile driving of temporary steel supports in the river, hand and power saw cutting of old bridge timbers, moving of a rolling derrick atop the bridge, and unloading of bridge timbers at a temporary storage yard near the bridge. The work immediately preceded the construction of the current steel bridge.
The bridge construction project was arranged by the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges – Pennsylvania-New Jersey (the “Joint Commission”), the predecessor agency to the DRJTBC. The work was funded jointly by the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The states had acquired the bridge crossing in a 1929 in a purchase arranged by the former Joint Commission.
Not much is known about the impending film footage release, such as what company or individual did the filming or how the footage came into the Bridge Commission’s possession. The most logical explanation is the filming was done for the Joint Commission and the footage was conveyed to the Bridge Commission after it replaced the former Joint Commission in late December 1934.
The footage dates from the early stages of the Upper Black Eddy-Milford Bridge Reconstruction Project, which was carried out by the McClintic-Marshall Co. of Bethlehem, PA. under an $89,970,000 low-bid contract approved in March 1933. The procurement took place about 3-1/2 years after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression.
To carry out the project, the former wooden bridge at the location was shut down to traffic on June 5, 1933. McClintic-Marshall commenced erecting false works (to support the old wooden bridge’s removal and the erection of its steel replacement structure) two days later.
The Depression-era bridge project was carried out over a 222-day period, ending with the new bridge opening to traffic during a driving rain storm on January 13, 1934. The replacement bridge, which remains in operation to this day, is a three-span steel Warren through-truss structure with polygonal top chords and a concrete-filled steel grid road surface. The bridge has travel lanes in each direction and a walkway on the upstream side.
The steel bridge replaced a wooden covered bridge that had served the area for roughly 91 years. The wooden bridge had been constructed for the former Milford Delaware Bridge Company, a local shareholder-owned concern chartered under legislation enacted by New Jersey on March 8, 1839 and by Pennsylvania on June 24, 1839. The three-span wooden covered Burr-arch bridge was completed and opened as a privately tolled crossing on January 29, 1842. The bridge had cartways in each direction and flanking walkways on the upstream and downstream sides.
The bridge’s span on the New Jersey side was destroyed during the Pumpkin Flood of October 1903. The Milford Delaware Bridge Co. replaced the missing span using some of the timbers salvaged from the former wooden Riegelsville Bridge, which also lost a span during the same 1903 flood. The post-1903-flood timber Milford Bridge remained in service as a private toll bridge until June 28, 1929, when New Jersey and Pennsylvania jointly purchased the crossing and freed it of tolls in a purchase arranged by the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges.
In June 1933, Joint Commission engineers determined that the wooden bridge’s condition was deteriorating to such a degree that it should be replaced by a steel structure. The two states subsequently provided funds to the Joint Commission in 1933 allowing the bridge replacement work to move forward. The resulting steel bridge was designed in-house by Edwin W. Denzler, who later became the Bridge Commission’s chief engineer. It would be the last bridge construction project to be conducted by the old Joint Commission.
Within a year of the new steel bridge’s opening, a newly constituted Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission assumed the responsibility of operating and maintain the bridge on behalf of the two states. This service arrangement continued for more than 52 years. On July 1, 1987, the two states conveyed their ownership of the bridge outright to the DRJTBC. The Bridge Commission has since operated and maintained the bridge through a share of the money it collects each year at its toll bridges. This is the reason why the Commission now official refers to this bridge crossing as the Upper Black Eddy-Milford Toll-Supported Bridge.