A decade-old construction plan to replace the Scudder Falls Bridge between Mercer and Bucks Counties still hasn’t even broken ground, but residents of Titusville, N.J., want to keep toll-avoiding traffic out of their small town before it starts.
Locals say commuters circumnavigating tolls on the Scudder Falls replacement bridge could crowd out bicyclists and pedestrians on Titusville’s historical River Drive instead.
If two county-owned bridges bookending River Drive open to car traffic, the residential street dating back to the American Revolution could make a handy work-around for drivers on their way to the toll-free Washington Crossing bridge.
Bridges on either end of River Drive have been closed to motor vehicles — but open to foot traffic and bicycles — due to structural concerns since Hurricane Irene.
In a letter last week to Mercer County officials, Township administrator and engineer Paul Pogorzelski said citizens feared that reopening the two bridges “might encourage cut-through traffic through the high-pedestrian areas on the island of Titusville.”
Mercer County engineer Greg Sandusky confirmed that the county has already awarded a contract to design replacement bridges for both ends of River Drive.
“We are rehabilitating the bridges to meet current load requirements, and it would be the Township’s decision to close the road at the bridges, not the county’s decision to close the bridges,” he said in an email to county spokesperson Julie Willmot.
Sandusky wrote that the design process would take over two years and had been awarded to IH Engineers in March for $301,782.
Keeping Titusville beautiful
Hopewell Township Committee Member Harvey Lester said residents on River Drive want to make sure their rural community stays quaint.
“It’s residences on the one side, and the other side is the Delaware River,” he said. “It’s a beautiful community. We want to keep it that way.”
River Drive, which runs parallel to the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail, is also a favorite destination for bicyclists and hikers.
Lester added that the Hopewell Township committee is just beginning to talk to residents about how construction on Scudder Falls could affect their area.
Joining the PA Turnpike/I-95 Interchange
Widening the Scudder Falls Bridge is part of a larger project to connect Interstate 95 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
When the interchange is complete in 2017, motorists will be able to travel up and down the East Coast without ever leaving I-95.
Scudder Falls is among the most-traveled bridges overseen by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, but with just two lanes, it is also one of the most congested.
A daily average of 58,000 vehicles crossed Scudder Falls in 2012, DRJTBC Deputy Executive Director of Communications Joe Donnelly said.
Depending on the toll rate, DRJTBC has estimated that between 7 and 19 percent of daily traffic will seek alternate routes to avoid Scudder Falls.
Total traffic is expected to continue rising on the span regardless of the toll rate.
Construction on the new Scudder Falls Bridge should begin in late 2014.