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New Walnut Street Bridge Opening Draws Large Crowd in Perkasie

November 21, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry R. King, 215.348.6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

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Bridge openings? Ribbon cuttings? Meh.

Often they are lonely, somewhat perfunctory affairs. But today in Perkasie?

Wow.

Hundreds of Perkasie-area residents crowded Walnut Street and its sidewalks, a marching band played, classic cars rolled, and loud cheers attended the mid-day ribbon-cutting and opening of the rebuilt Walnut Street Bridge, which had been closed since last fall. IMG_8579 (2)

“We have never, ever, ever had a bridge opening like this!” County Commissioners Chair Robert G. Loughery told the festive, bundled-up crowd, which police estimated at 400 to 500 people. “This is new to us; this is great!”

“We finally have our bridge back!” someone shouted.

The bridge, which crosses the East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek, was first constructed as the wooden Branch Bridge in 1867, when the center of Perkasie still was known as Comleyville and its southern end as Bridgetown. It has served as a vital artery for commerce, residents, visitors and first responders ever since.

The wooden bridge was replaced in 1907 by a concrete arch bridge costing $24,600. That span, which underwent a $71,400 widening and deck replacement in 1970, was closed for demolition on Oct. 2, 2017, to make way for the new $5.1-million span that opened today.

And what an opening. IMG_8606 (2)

The county commissioners moved their regularly scheduled business meeting today to Perkasie Borough Hall to allow them to attend the ribbon-cutting.

“That bridge is vital to our borough,” Borough Council Member Scott Bomboy told the commissioners at their morning meeting. “We have not had a new bridge in that spot for 111 years. Without the commissioners, that project would not have happened.”

After their meeting, the commissioners made their way south on Walnut Street to the bridge, where a throng of residents, dignitaries, Historical Society members in period garb, emergency vehicles and antique cars awaited.

“We drove down this hill and we saw all these people and I thought, wow, they’re all here for the bridge to be reopened,” Loughery said. IMG_8575 (2)

Mayor John Hollenbach said a TV news crew questioned him about the huge turnout.

“They said, `Why are you making such a big deal out of this?’” Hollenbach told the crowd. “I said, `Because this is Perkasie!’

“It’s a wonderful thing; we are connecting South Perkasie with Upper Perkasie,” the mayor said.

The new bridge is one of 114 owned and maintained by Bucks County and its General Services Division. It is approximately 210 feet long and 49 feet wide, carries two lanes of traffic and has sidewalks on both sides. Eighty percent of the cost will be reimbursed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

H&K Group, Inc., of Douglassville, was the contractor for the project, while the bridge and roadway design was performed by Carroll Engineering Corporation of Warrington. The new bridge is designed to last for at least 100 years. IMG_8568 (2)

Borough Council Vice President Jim Purcell paid tribute to the many H&K workers “who battled the weather for a whole year, fighting the rain and the snow.”

County Commissioner Charles H. Martin recalled a day a few years ago when a Perkasie resident, exasperated with the condition of the old bridge, presented the commissioners with a large chunk of broken concrete from the structure at one of their meetings.

“Although we didn’t appreciate it too much at the time, that was certainly the impetus to move forward as quickly as possible, and spurred the money to get this done,” Martin said. “In hindsight, it’s a shame we didn’t save that; we could have brought it today and given it back to you.”IMG_8583 (2)

Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, who christened the new bridge by breaking a blanket-wrapped bottle of bubbly against its concrete curb, said, “Healthy families and healthy communities build bridges … It is great to be part of putting this community back together again.” 

After the opening remarks, Loughery and Hollenbach cut the ceremonial red ribbon and a parade ensued, with commissioners, council members and others crossing the new span in vehicles provided by A&T Chevrolet-Subaru, and in classic cars from the Mopar Heritage Car Club. Bringing up the rear was the Pennridge High School Marching Rams band before the procession continued down Constitution Avenue to a reception at Landis Supermarket.

The new bridge incorporates decorative lighting and colored stone facing, which will bear four plaques commemorating the original 1867 wooden bridge, the 1907 reconstructed bridge, the 1970 rehabilitated bridge, and the new structure. Cheers (2)

Other significant aspects of the rebuilt bridge include reconstruction of the approach roadway; new vehicular and pedestrian signals; new retaining walls; ADA-compliant ramps, guiderail and curbing; and sidewalk and drainage improvements.