Mt. Alverno Road Bridge reopens in Delco, reconnecting Aston and Middletown

More than 12% of state and local bridges in Delaware County remain in poor condition, twice the national average.

View of the Mt. Alverno Bridge.

The Mt. Alverno bridge connects Middletown and Aston townships over the Chester Creek. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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The Mt. Alverno Road Bridge is back open for business, connecting Aston Township to Middletown Township and re-establishing access to the Chester Creek Trail.

Delaware County council members, representatives from the townships, and PennDOT were present for a ribbon cutting on the small bridge Thursday afternoon.

“Safe and reliable infrastructure is critical,” county Councilmember Christine Reuther said. “Delaware County Council remains committed to investing in our bridge infrastructure.”

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County officials cut a ribbon as they stand on the Mt. Alvern Bridge.
Officials celebrated the opening of Mt. Alverno Bridge on July 6, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Prior to the ceremony, the county bridge was out of commission for roughly a year and a half after its superstructure deteriorated, and its safety features were deemed “substandard” and needed a complete replacement.

The improved bridge, which carries a portion of Mt. Alverno Road over the Chester Creek, fulfills those newer safety standards.

“This bridge will improve the safety and capacity of transportation that work in Middletown and the surrounding area, as well as provide a safe structure to accommodate first responder vehicles in Middletown Township,” said John McMullan, Middletown Township manager.

A view of the Mt. Alverno bridge stretching over Chester Creek
The Mt. Alverno bridge connects Middletown and Aston townships over the Chester Creek. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Bridges in Delco and Pa. are in bad shape. The county is working to fix that

According to PennDOT’s Bridge Conditions Map, Delco has 57 state and local bridges in poor condition, which amounts to 12% of the county’s bridges. That figure is on par with the state average — and nearly two times higher than the national average of structurally deficient bridges, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

“Pennsylvania has the ninth highest bridge inventory in the nation. Despite a 4.5% decrease in the number of poor condition bridges, Pennsylvania also contains the second highest number of poor condition bridges among the 50 states,” Reuther said.

The county maintains an additional 43 bridges, including the Mt. Alverno Road Bridge, according to Danielle Floyd, the county director of public works. All of the work that is done to those bridges is still reviewed by PennDOT.

“Of the 43 that we own, nine have been identified to be in poor condition. I’m happy to share with you that four of those bridges that have been identified [to be in poor condition], they’re in design right now with the anticipation that we’ll start construction by next year,” Floyd said.

Floyd said funds are finite and often cause a logjam on speedy repairs. Additionally, she noted engineering and reviewing safety standards require time. Luckily, she said an influx in federal infrastructure money is pushing a lot of projects through, like the Mt. Alverno Road Bridge.

Calling it an exciting time for Delco, Floyd wants the public to look for investments in Delco’s vital infrastructure.

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“I think what we’re demonstrating is that we’re taking the resources that we’ve been given and making the necessary investments in the places where they’re needed most,” Floyd said.

What’s taking so long to fix Pennsylvania’s bridges?

Pennsylvania’s bridges have had a rough history with timely repairs. While it only took state officials 12 days to partially reopen collapsed portions of I-95, it took Gov. Josh Shapiro’s emergency declaration to generate the blistering repair pace.

Just a few miles from Mt. Alverno Road Bridge, the Sellers Avenue Bridge in Ridley Park has been closed since July 2022 due to deteriorating conditions.

To make matters worse, the alleged lack of urgency to fix the state-owned bridge sparked a public dispute among the borough, PennDOT, and Amtrak.

One of the major obstacles delaying bridge and road restorations in Pennsylvania has been the fact that money from the state’s fuel tax, which is supposed to fund repairs, has also been going to pay for state police operations.

Shapiro’s new budget sets aside money for the state police without taking money from the bridge and road system. However, it has come in exchange for accountability concerns. The proposed budget is at a standstill in Harrisburg over private school vouchers.

The change in position from the governor’s office on the vouchers has the budget likely on hold in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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