The century-old Narberth Avenue bridge will be repaired and reopened to vehicle traffic at a cost of about $300,000, Borough Council decided Wednesday night in a split vote.
The borough's lone north-south connection over the Amtrak and SEPTA train tracks has been closed since late August, when a PennDOT inspection found structural deficiencies.
Engineers from Pennoni & Associates determined that 11 of 25 steel girders have deteriorated and need new steel to bolster them, Pennoni's Craig Suhoskey told council members at Wednesday night's special meeting. Once repaired, the bridge will be strong enough to maintain its previous 9-ton load limit, Suhoskey said.
The borough is planning to demolish the bridge in 2014 and build a new one in its place, a plan that had several council members and residents skeptical about a potential six-figure investment in a bridge whose days are numbered. The average Narberth household would have to pay about $140, to come up with $300,000 from the tax base.
But business owners have pleaded for council to consider how an avoidable longer closure could hurt their livelihoods and the vibrancy of the downtown.
The bridge almost certainly will not be reopened during any of the holiday shopping season; several officials estimated the repairs would be completed in January.
Still, business owners said the old bridge would be reopened long enough to be valuable, since there was no guarantee the new bridge will be underway on time. Officials attribute several years of other delays mainly to bureaucratic holdups with Amtrak and PennDOT.
Five of seven council members voted to fund the repairs: Andrea Deutsch, Aaron Muderick, Sam Quinn, Bob Wegbreit and Bob Weisbord. Council members Michael Alexander and Heidi Boise voted against.
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