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MontCo Commisioner Commits to Visit Pennsburg Bridge
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Pennsburg officials continued their campaign Wednesday to convince Montgomery County officials to separate a proposed trail from a plan to replace a bridge on Main Street. Multiple members of borough council, the mayor, along with municipal business owners discussed the issue during a Zoom meeting with commissioners Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence and several members of the county's planning commission.

            Though county officials declined to support the municipal recommendation, Lawrence agreed to accept an invitation from Pennsburg Mayor Charles Shagg to visit the bridge and the surrounding area. Lawrence informed Shagg and Council President Diane Stevens that he would make an effort to meet with them by the end of the month. 

            "I know the area," said Lawrence, who asked Lee Soltysiak, the county's chief operating officer to accompany him in the trip. "It will be good to get some specific details."

            Stevens repeated the argument she has made previously in similar meetings with county officials. She said the eventual implementation of a walking path underneath a new bridge between 10th and 11th streets is not popular with any constituents she has communicated with. Shagg described the proposed trail as "mass madness."

            If constructed, the trail could not extend beyond Route 663, according to Stevens. She suggested building it along the Macoby Creek.

            According to the council president, numerous businesses would be hurt by the proposal to incorporate a tunnel into a plan by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to replace the bridge. She claimed that eliminating it would reduce the cost between $750,000 and $1 million and reduce the length of the project by a month.

             "I hope you will consider this, and try work with us and remove [the plan for a trail,]" the mayor said.

            Scott France, the executive director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said scaling back the project would not allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – which is funding the project – to recoup any money. He said those funds have already been programmed.

            France described the inclusion of the path in in the Rails to Trails program as a logical approach. He added that if, and when, county officials are prepared to develop the trail, they will likely consider the recommendations made by Pennsburg officials.

            "Righteous minds can disagree," France said.

            Bill Hartman, an open space section chief with the county planning commission, reiterated the fact that development of this path is not imminent. He said the work from engineering to construction can last between four and six years.

            Shagg expressed the need for the immediate removal of the bridge, which he described as rusted and corroded. He said the community preferred that the old structure be replaced with a flat roadway and a crosswalk.

            According to Freed, PennDOT officials always planned on replacing the current bridge with a similar structure. He said the new structure will lower the road by 10 feet regardless of whether or not a tunnel is included.

            Initially, the tunnel would be built without an opening, according to France. He said that should mitigate any concerns about loitering.






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