Graterford Road Bridge closed due to serious structural damage

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Thousands of commuters are now following detours. (WPVI)

The Graterford Road Bridge is now blocked off by a pile of stone, and drivers who rely on it daily are now being forced to turn around and find another way.

Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country. This bridge is one of 400 deficient bridges.

Last year officials thought it was safe to carry 14 tons across the bridge. But now it has been deemed unsafe for any automotive traffic.

The unexpected closure of the Graterford Road Bridge means local residents and those doing business at the landmark prison must detour.

PennDOT says the now-closed bridge handled about 2,900 vehicles a day.

Some predict rush hour gridlock along the detour. Patricia Gillespie, who owns the historic Gravel Pike Inn, worries some customers who use a nearby trail will get discouraged and not stop.

Gillespie voiced her concerns, saying, "I worry about my business. It's summertime. I get a lot of people who are on the trail, on their bicycles and motorcycles who come up this road all the time."

The 1957 vintage bridge was ordered closed when inspectors discovered significant breaks in critical concrete beams and badly rusted steel reinforcement bars that were not fully apparent before last winter.

Les Toaso, PennDOT District 6 Executive, explains, "When we got the inspection results and we ran them through our analysis, we decided that it was unsafe for any traffic."

At this point there is no timetable for repairing or replacing the bridge. We're told a replacement bridge would cost in the neighborhood of $8 million to $11 million.

PennDOT now has a pool of money to repair bridges that it did not have in past years, but there are many bridges to repair besides this one.

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