COLLEGE TOWNSHIP — Work is progressing on a formerly deficient bridge on East Branch Road, but that’s no consolation to at least one business and numerous residents dealing with the continued road closure.
The road was closed in early June so the state Department of Transportation could reconstruct the bridge near Kissinger Farm and South Atherton Street. It’s one of two structurally deficient bridges on the road and has a $1.5 million price tag.
East Branch has been closed from the bridge to Centre Hills Country Club, with eastbound local traffic able to go as far as Cliffside Drive. A detour remains in place, using Warner Boulevard/Boalsburg Pike, U.S. Route 322, state Route 26/College Avenue and Pike Street at Houserville.
And, according to a local PennDOT inspector, the closure is still set to be in place through November.
Home Delivery Pizza Pub, on South Atherton near Branch Road, has seen an 8 to 10 percent drop in income since June, according to manager Brett Flick. He called the loss “significant,” and said it was noticed immediately.
“We’ve lost all the Lemont business,” he said. “They might frequent here once a week, when they used to come three or four times. It’s a real pain.”
At the same time, Flick said delivery service has picked up a bit, because those customers still order food for delivery when they won’t drive the detour to visit the restaurant in person.
“We’re still wicked busy,” he said. “We just lost a lot.”
Jon Nese, who lives off of Branch Road near the area of the bridge, also figures he’s lost a lot — about $400 in extra gas since June.
“Mainly it’s been just a big inconvenience,” he said. “Drives that used to be one mile and take two minutes are now five miles and 15 minutes. Our cars probably used that bridge six to eight times per day. That adds up in wasted time and money.”
Other residents have stopped College Township engineer Kent Baker in the grocery store to ask about the project’s progress.
“We still get phone calls from time to time, mostly asking when the project’s going to be completed,” he said.
The project contractor, Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., has until Nov. 30 to reopen the road.
Marc Maney, inspector in charge for PennDOT District 2, said work was ahead of schedule at one point, but a delayed utility relocation put the project back on its original track.
“We’re still hoping to get it open a few weeks earlier if we can,” he said.
The latest work, planned for Friday or Monday, will be pouring the concrete deck on the bridge structure. Baker said the bridge was set up for that on Tuesday.
After that, work will include the approach slabs on both sides of the bridge, and road work.
Maney said PennDOT also has taken comment from many local residents.
“They would like to see the project progress quicker,” he said. “If there are any delays, people get irritated, and reasonably so.”
Work around the bridge has extended the project, Maney said. It’s a larger, two-span bridge that is 81 feet long.
“For the type of bridge we had to install there, we just can’t do it any faster,” Maney said.
Crews also had to relocate Slab Cabin Run, which ran parallel to the bridge, toward Lemont.
Because the stream was starting to erode the embankment, which would eventually lead to washing away the road, PennDOT and other state departments worked to move it away from the bridge.
“That takes coordination,” Maney said. “There are only certain times of the year you’re allowed in the stream bed.”
However, the bridge will also be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, because Maney said 5-foot shoulders will be placed on both sides.
“The bridge that was there prior to, there was absolutely no shoulder width whatsoever,” he said.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter