The Hopewell Township Committee, in the coming week, will announce an official position on Mercer County’s proposals for the future of Mine Road Bridge.
Years ago, a downed tree had damaged the upper structure, resulting in the bridge being closed to traffic. Since 2015, the bridge deterioration resulted in the county determining that the bridge was unsafe for use.
When Township Committee members and county engineers held a public meeting in late January, the county proposed two options for the bridge located near the intersection of Mine Road and Stony Brook Road.
“Right now we are still getting letters responding to the meeting and what their people are learning. Most of us are ready to make a decision and I talked to our engineer and he would like to wait until we have a budget meeting on Feb. 22,” Mayor Julie Blake said. “We will be sending an official letter to the engineers and county executive about what we would like to see.”
The county, which owns the bridge, proposed the option of replacing the current 4-ton bridge with a modern, 40-ton load rating bridge that would allow for vehicle traffic to resume on the structure. The bridge be would 37 feet wide with a sidewalk being provided on one side of the bridge.
The second option would retain the existing structure and permanently close the bridge to vehicle traffic, which also included emergency vehicles. However, the bridge would remain open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. To physically restrict vehicles from the bridge the county would erect signs and place bollards (short posts).
Vehicular access to Mine Road would be provided by Route 31.
“I’ll be frank – I think my vote would be to support preserving the bridge and making it pedestrian bridge knowing the limits of our decisions of what we can do,” Blake said.
Blake was disappointed that more options such a repairs and rehabilitation were not presented when meeting had taken place last month, which had also been voiced during the January meeting by several residents and fellow Township Committee members.
“I understand the limits of both the county engineers and the funding mechanisms that the county and state use, which are more restrictive for federal guidelines. I get it, but it does not make me any less disappointed,” she said. “I heard a lot of people say that this is part of their experience of the town. We are a historic town. We want to make permanent the things that we value. There has to be recognition also of modernization and that is what the state and county are telling us.”
The iron truss bridge was built in 1885 in the late 19th century by the King Bridge Company, according to Hopewell Township.
In a 2018 Historic Bridge Alternative Analysis Report, the report indicated that the existing bridge structure had been deemed structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. County engineers during the January meeting reiterated that assessment.
“We do not have any bridges under our jurisdiction and so we do not have the capacity or the money to take one on. If we had six bridges that would be a conversation to have, but this would be our only bridge and it would be both a liability and quite expensive,” Blake said. “If the county is willing to keep it and preserve it and if they made it a pedestrian bypass I see that as the best option.”
If the replacement option moves forward, the county will seek state funding for the construction costs for the project under the annual allotment for bridge funding.
“The county is kindly and supportively asking what we would like to see done, so I very much appreciate that,” Blake added.