PennDOT: Holme Avenue Bridge “had to close”

“The bridge failed.”

That’s the way PennDOT engineer Javier Salgveiro explained the recent closure of the Holme Avenue Bridge. Amid technical jargon about bridge decks, rebars and beams, Salgveiro, two other PennDOT employees and John Buckley of Buckley Construction explained why the bridge closed last Monday while crews were in the middle of repairs.

The topic brought about 40 people to last night’s Holme Circle Civic Association meeting, where the bridge was the only item on the agenda.

“Serious deterioration,” as seen in the photos below, means the bridge will be closed until Buckley and his crew can finish the repairs. The timeline is “before Christmas,” as Salgveiro put it. That’s the silver lining in what’s otherwise been a headache for residents as they navigate their way around the closure. Had the bridge remained open during repairs — as was originally planned — work would have gone on until mid-2012.

But the problem with the sudden closure means everything else was sudden, too. Like, for instance, the detours being used. Buckley said detours are usually researched and planned a few years in advance of a road closure. The unexpected closure of the bridge has sent drivers winding through the neighborhood — mainly on a jam-packed Willits Road.

Measures are being considered to alleviate some of the problems, which include rush hour back-ups from Ashton and Willits roads all the way to Holme Avenue. Salgveiro and PennDOT project manager Harold Windisch say PennDOT will work with the city and SEPTA to make sure things go as smoothly as possible:

Meanwhile, residents and business owners are concerned about safety and a different kind of traffic.

The sudden dead-end on Holme Avenue at Arthur Street is keeping cars away from some of the businesses on the 2900-block of Holme Avenue. The Sunoco on Holme Circle at Ashton road has already laid off a daytime worker and is selling 700 to 1,000 gallons fewer a day, according to the station’s owner.

But when cars do find their way to the 2900-block of the avenue, residents there say drivers are speeding and confused because inefficient signage doesn’t alert drivers to the change. The barricade sits between Longford Street and Lewin Place/Arthur Street.

Windisch said PennDOT is working on signs to alert drivers that businesses on the avenue are still open, and said the department is looking into how best to reroute the detour. If neighbors’ suggestions are taken, truck drivers will be advised to use Grant Avenue, while other signs direct local traffic around Willits and Ashton roads. Salgveiro said PennDOT will examine how to best redesign the Ashton/Willits intersection with designated lanes and a breadth that can accommodate what’s now become part of SEPTA’s Route 88 loop.

Related coverage

June 21: Bridge closure notice

April 28: Construction update

Feb. 24: Construction update

More studies will have to take place in August ahead of the new school year, so safety can be considered for students who ride yellow buses.

For now, the part of Holme Avenue that was once the bridge remains relatively accessible. A concrete barrier stop cars from going farther than Arthur Street or Longford Street, but pedestrians have access to the sidewalk and rubble that quickly drops off to nothing. As the sun set Wednesday night, the orange mesh barrier proved ineffective as a group of teenagers made its way across what’s left of the bridge, both sides of the road open to the train tracks below.

“If they congregated there before, I don’t know what we’ve changed,” Windisch said about neighbors’s concerns of teenagers and troublemakers hanging out on the bridge. “We’re securing the area off as best we can.”

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