According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA is planning to close the Bridgeport Viaduct this summer for safety reasons, citing lack of state funding to make the necessary repairs. SEPTA says the closing may even be permanent.
The viaduct – the bridge that carries the Norristown High Speed Line over the Schuylkill River to and from the Norristown Transportation Center – is over 100 years old and according Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA's chief engineer, warmer temperatures will likely cause the tracks to expand and pull free of the steel spikes that hold the aging wooden ties in place. Recent repairs will keep the bridge operational until then, but speeds have been reduced to 15 to 20 m.p.h. going over the viaduct.
When the bridge is closed for the summer, busses will transport riders to and from the Norristown Transportation Center to the next stop in Bridgeport.
According to the Inquirer, the bill to replace the more than 1700 ties would be $7 million, and another $23 million for paint and additional upgrades. It would also close the bridge for four months at a minimum.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited the viaduct more than a year ago and stressed the need for the government to fund these transportation projects like the needed repairs to the bridge.
The Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers (DVARP) has started a petition calling on Governor Tom Corbett to come up with funding needed for this and other transportation projects by mid-January.
According to the DVARP petition:
"The reality is that mass transit agencies across PA are struggling. Some agencies, like PAT in Pittsburgh, are being forced to make painful decisions with regard to service cuts and fare increases right now, while other agencies, like SEPTA, will be forced to make similarly painful decisions starting as soon as this-coming year. This is because state lawmakers have held off on finding a dedicated source of transportation funding, which has punctured a major hole in transit agencies budgets. It would be a massive mistake to proceed with the roads/bridges component of transportation funding, but kick the can down the track on mass transit funding."
LaHood in Norristown: 'No Such Thing as a Democratic or Republican Job'