Twin Bridges report due soon

Design consultant Jason Besz briefly reviews options for a replacement for Twin Bridges over the Brandywine Creek along Creek Road between Chadds Ford and Pennsbury townships.

There's still no word on when work will begin on replacing Twin Bridges, but an analysis of options is due soon. The bridge spans the Brandywine between Chadds Ford and Pennsbury townships along Creek Road, an area that's now officially the Twin Bridges Rural Historic District.

That district covers more than 2,000 acres and includes four large properties, Big Bend, Hill Girt Farm, the Bissell Estate and Beverly Farm. Those estates and farms were based on the American Country Estate Movement popular from the mid 19th to mid 20th centuries. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission granted the historic status in September.

For Ford Draper, of Friends of Twin Bridges and who owns Beverly Farm at Bullock and Creek roads, that's significant. It was also a long time in coming. He said it took a "groundswell" of support from local townships and nine years to get the designation, but it was worth the effort.

"PennDOT now has to negotiate with us in good faith," Draper said during an informal update on the bridge project at the Brandywine River Museum of Art Monday evening.

Draper later explained that the having the area entered in the National Register of Historic Places means that PennDOT has to design the bridge in a manner befitting the designation.

"It's absolutely critical," Draper said. "As soon as enough information was created to offer the potential to create a rural historic district with national registry protection, then PennDOT has to conform and make bridge designs that compliment the acknowledged historical benefits of the area. They are required to do that."

However, he later explained that the significance goes beyond the cosmetic appearance of the future replacement bridge. The designation prevents "uglies" such as cell towers from being installed in the district. The designation also helps with establishing scenic byways.

As for the bridge itself, nothing is final, and the meeting was strictly informal. PennDOT's Steven Fellin said the Alternate Analysis Report is close to being finalized and should be ready for public comment "in a week or two." The report was originally to be released in 2012 but, as Draper said, there were “torturous delays.”

As the name implies, the report considers several alternative designs for the replacement bridge. It's those alternatives that would be discussed and debated during the public comment period before the final decision. Fellin said there's no way to know how long it would take for people to reach a consensus.

Design consultant Jason Besz briefly discussed several of the alternatives. Some alternatives keep the same grade and elevation as the current span, while others have the elevation closer to the water level. Some consider moving the crossing farther upstream, and some consider moving it farther downstream.

The cost to replace the bridge is estimated to be between $12 million and $18 million, Besz added.

The current bridge is more than 80 years old, is 482 feet long and 23 feet wide. It's called Twin Bridges because at one time there were two in-line covered bridges connected by an open span.

The bridge had been considered unsightly but safe, but that changed in 2008 when it was reclassified as structurally poor because of spalling — meaning concrete is flaking off — as well as exposed rebar and chloride ion contamination. An engineer at the time said that was due to a deficient drainage system

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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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