Article: When A Bridge Closes, A Window Opens

Article: When A Bridge Closes, A Window Opens

May 10, 2011

The Chandler Mill Consortium

The Chandler Mill Bridge

At the Chandler Mill Bridge 100th Birthday Party in 2011

With the approach of summer, it’s the perfect time to make lemonade from lemons.

On Friday, May 6th, the Chandler Mill Road Bridge was closed by Chester County when a routine inspection revealed some deterioration in one of the girders.

The through-girder bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service in early 2010. A group of residents and local organizations organized under the name “Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium,” including S.A.V.E. and The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, have been working for several years to have the bridge rehabilitated rather than replaced by a two-lane wider modern structure. Bridge advocates cherish its hand laid stone wing walls, its utilitarian plate girders, and its single-lane nature which harkens to our rural past and a more leisurely time when neighbors slowed to chat when passing on the road. Recently having celebrated its one hundredth birthday, the bridge has never had a single documented accident.

Although surprised by the sudden closing, the members of the Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium believe the closing is actually an opportunity to expedite a rehabilitation of the bridge and provide a Win-Win solution for all concerned, including the bridge’s owner, Chester County. The closing provides the perfect platform to do an expedited design/build deck replacement and rehabilitation. This would a.) get the bridge back in service in the quickest manner possible, potentially by Fall for the reopening of school, b.) save the taxpayers up to $2 million or more; and c.) preserve the integrity of this historic resource now on the National Register of Historic Places, and considered a contributing element to the proposed Red Clay Valley Byway and the Red Clay Historic District.

It appears that Chester County prefers a full replacement for the sole reason that it only has to pick up 5% of the overall cost and a replacement (approximately $2.5 million or more) would last longer than a rehabilitation (approximately $500,000). But taxpayers are responsible for the full 100% of cost, and therefore, a savings of $2 million or more is quite meaningful to taxpayers and is the fiscally prudent option for the bridge, especially in this economy. Additionally, the 101 year old bridge has already proven its longevity and a study undertaken by Lichtenstein Engineers (now known as TranSystems) confirmed that a rehabilitation was definitely feasible and would last for half a century or more.

“The demolition and replacement of the Chandler Mill Bridge will undermine years of historic preservation and conservation efforts in the community”, said William Ryan, Director of the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, a 297 acre preserve adjacent to the Chandler Mill Bridge. Ryan adds, “Kennett Township could resolve this dilemma by taking back the bridge. The County has agreed they would then authorize the rehabilitation of the bridge.

Other townships have done it with great success. It would be a real show of support for historic preservation and conservation in Kennett.”
The bridge consortium has a request in to Chester County for a stakeholder meeting with the project team in order that all interested parties can be involved in discussions regarding the future of the bridge. With a rehabbed, newly decked out bridge, we can all share a glass of lemonade to celebrate the end of summer.