New bridge over Brandywine in 2020

Twin Bridges, the span across the Brandywine Creek along Creek Road near Rocky Hill Road in Chadds Ford Township and the Haskell Farm in Pennsbury Township, is scheduled to be replaced beginning in 2019. The work is expected to take about 18 months and be finished by the end of 2020.

That was the general take-away from a stakeholders’ meeting in Pennsbury Township on Nov. 30. Several dozen people attended, including supervisors from the two townships, planners from the Brandywine Conservancy and River Museum of Art and general residents.

The current span, which dates back to 1927, is structurally deficient. Studies into replacing the bridge began in 2008.

Jason S. Besz, project engineer with GPI Engineering and Construction Services, said the engineering team has still not decided on a design for the replacement bridge. He showed three options.

The first option is to keep the same location and grade of the current bridge with some modifications to the approaches. Other options include moving the bridge slightly south and lowering the grade almost even with the railroad tracks.

One of those other options includes moving the span just slightly south, reconstructing the approaches and using a shorter span. The other option would move the bridge even further south and reconfiguring the approaches to have softer curves, Besz said.

Both of those options, with the lower grade, would mean heavy flooding from a 100-year storm would bring the water level to less than a foot from the bottom of the bridge’s arch.

Other modifications include widening the span from its current 22-foot width to 26 feet wide. There would be two 10-foot wide lanes with two 3-foot shoulders.

According to Besz, no matter which design option is chosen, the work would still take a minimum of two construction seasons. Each season is about nine months, from early spring through autumn.

Each of the three options under consideration would mean as yet unspecified detours. However, Besz said the third option, which moves the bridge the farthest, would mean a shorter detour time because the current bridge could be used while some of the work is being done.

PennDOT and the U.S. Highway department are not the only government agencies involved in the decision process. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is also involved because the bridge is within an historic district and the bridge itself contributes to the historic district.

The current bridge was constructed in 1927 after engineers started looking at changing the original structure in 1924. The name Twin Bridges stems from the original design that consisted of two bridges aligned end to end across the creek.

Moving forward, there will be more engineering meetings with input from the state historical commission taking place in spring of 2016. Once a design option is chosen, the project will then go out for bid in 2019. The bid will be awarded about five weeks later.

(Photo: Jason Besz,of GPI Engineering, discusses one of the options for the Twin Bridges replacement during the Nov. 30 meeting.)

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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