Tremont examines funding for bridge

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TREMONT - Officials determined October 1 that there will be enough money to repair both a bridge in the borough and a collapsed tunnel.

Gerald Fasnacht, borough council member and code enforcement officer, said the Union Street bridge has been closed to traffic and will be repaired, although officials recently thought the project might be put on hold because of a tunnel that recently collapsed in the front yard of a home on Laurel Street.

Officials thought they would have to use funding reserved for the bridge project to repair the large hole, but a meeting with the state Emergency Management Agency on Monday morning determined otherwise.

Three bids for the bridge project were opened at a special Tremont Borough Council meeting Sept. 17 with Performance Construction Services, Harrisburg, being the low bidder at $22,021.

Two other bids were received, one from Donohue Excavating and Paving at $39,770 and one from Spotts Brothers at $56,925. Both companies are in Schuylkill Haven.

According to the Sept. 26 edition of The Citizen Standard, on Sept. 20, Performance Construction Services, the low bidder, requested the withdrawal of its bid and the return of the bid bond.

Since the request was made within the allowable 48-hour time frame, the request was accepted.

Fasnacht said that the Union Street bridge was shut down eight years ago because the state deemed it unfit for use.

"They even wanted us to put a fence around it so no one would walk over that bridge," he said.

He added that U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, came up with $400,000 for the bridge to be fixed. But because PennDOT was following its own rules and regulations, the bridge would have had to carry the same weight of a bridge on Interstate 81 - 80,000 pounds.

"Our argument is that you don't need an 80,000-pound bridge here," Fasnacht said.

He said that according to PennDOT engineers, the borough would have had to replace the entire bridge and 50 feet on either side of it, meaning a garage next to it would have to be torn down.

At PennDOT regulations, the project would have cost an estimated $2 million.

"What the borough is going to do is open the bridge at their own expense," Fasnacht said. "We are accepting donations."

Because the bridge - which has since been turned over to the borough and is also the only borough-owned bridge, according to Fasnacht - is being repaired and reopened at the borough's expense, it will only have a 15-ton weight limit. That will be enough to support a loaded school bus, which he said weights about 28,000 pounds.

With the bridge closed, school buses from Pine Grove have had to make a U-turn across the busy intersection of routes 209 and 125 to come back into town.

Fasnacht said the bridge project was going to be put on hold, however, due to a tunnel that collapsed Sept. 21 on Laurel Street.

The Citizen Standard reported that council President Bob Donmoyer said a car backed into the yard and one of the rear wheels sank into a hole. The car needed to be pulled out by a tow truck.

The hole has since grown to 15 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep, requiring a fence to be placed around it.

Fasnacht said that during Monday's meeting with borough officials and the state Emergency Management Agency, the borough determined it will still have the full amount of money to repair the bridge.

"Now since we know this morning that we do have enough money to fix this, we might have to rebid the bridge," Fasnacht said. "We're not quite sure yet."

A workshop meeting of the borough council was scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m. October 2, but details from that meeting were unavailable prior to press production.

Borough engineer Tom Schreffler of Light-Heigel was unable to be reached for further comment.

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