SUGARLOAF TWP. — One bridge closed Monday before another opened, adding to detours for drivers, including firefighters and ambulance crews.
Signs blocked access to the bridge on East County Road just east of Route 93 on Monday. The bridge isn’t expected to reopen for nine months.
Workers from Rylind Construction have until June 4, 2021, to remove the existing bridge and build a new one, according to a contract of $843,384 with Luzerne County.
Fire Chief Duane Hildebrand of Sugarloaf Twp. Volunteer Fire Company said he was told that workers wouldn’t start replacing the bridge on East County Road until a bridge reopened on Butler Avenue.
But COVID-19 delayed plans for reopening Butler Avenue Bridge on the township’s border with Conyngham by September.
On Butler Avenue, workers from Susquehanna Valley Construction of New Cumberland, Cumberland County, have installed a new, concrete bridge with pre-cast walls that look as though they are made of gray and pink stones.
Last week, they repaved approaches to the bridge.
They cannot, however, reopen Butler Avenue until they install painted guiderails, which aren’t expected to arrive until next week.
Butler Avenue has been closed since March 2019 when inspectors said the old, one-lane bridge wasn’t safe. Susquehanna Valley Construction won a state contract for $1.15 million and started removing the old bridge this May.
For now, emergency vehicles do have permission to cross Butler Avenue’s bridge.
“I hope nothing happens, but I have put the message out so my guys all know it,” Hildebrand said.
Meanwhile, drivers who want to travel on East County Road can take Main Street, Conyngham, to Walnut Avenue, which Hildebrand said is a tight turn for fire apparatus. From Walnut Avenue, drivers can proceed on Center Hill Road, Butler Drive and Frederick’s Farm Road to reach East County Road.
The bridge on East County Road is in fair condition but went to the top of the work schedule after the area met income guidelines for a federal Community Development Block Grant.
“Free money. It became a no-brainer,” Luzerne County Engineer Larry Plesh said.
On Monday, workers trimmed brush near the approaches to the bridge.
Later they will remove the bridge after cutting it into pieces.
Then they will set concrete beams across the span, install footers, wingwalls and abutment walls on each side and pour 8 inches of concrete to bind the parts.
Plesh said Rylind Construction, from Lewisberry, York County, submitted the lowest bid for replacing the bridge.
Since March, a crew from Rylind has been replacing another bridge on Route 93 just a mile north of East County Road.
For that job, a state contract of slightly more than $4 million required Rylind to install a temporary bridge so traffic can continue on Route 93. Then workers began replacing a steel truss bridge with a new concrete bridge, which is scheduled to open in December.
Because the company already was in the area it might have been able to save mobilizing costs and enter a lower bid for the job on East County Road, Plesh said. He added that Susquehanna Valley, the firm working on the Butler Avenue Bridge, submitted the next lowest bid.
Elsewhere in Conyngham, Sugarloaf Avenue remains closed between Smith Drive and Main Street where workers are installing a sidewalk.
The borough obtained a $300,000 state grant to pay Robert C. Young, a contractor from Mifflinville, Columbia County, for the project.
Young’s crew put in sidewalks along the route, except where utility poles have to be moved. Workers also have repaired driveways that the sidewalk crossed and installed shrubs.
While signs block off both ends of the project, drivers have been taking turns and traveling Sugarloaf Avenue as a one-lane street when workers aren’t present.
Next year, Conyngham will find out if it secures a grant to continue its streetscape project and install new sidewalks, trees and lighting along the east side of Main Street between Whispering Willows Park and Butler Avenue.