Downingtown Bridge project at a standstill

DOWNINGTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Backed up traffic along Brandywine Avenue in Downingtown, Chester County is becoming an all-too familiar scene and a major headache for people who live and travel in the area.

Commuter Matt Kulp of Pottstown knows how it will play out each day.

"This afternoon it is going to back up 322, it's going to back up Boot Road and it is just a crawl because of how Downingtown is laid out. It is a real pain," said Kulp.

Borough Councilman Phil Dague said many people blame the congestion on the closure of nearby Chestnut Street Bridge, originally built in the 1920s.

"The alternative routes have become extra clogged. Down the street on Brandywine Avenue, it could take you 20 minutes to a half-hour just to go a couple of blocks," said Dague.

Tony Cataldo, who owns Pomodoro Restaurant, said the bridge closure is hurting business. He said customers don't want to deal with finding alternate routes.

"At lunchtime, it hurts a little bit because people can't go around. It takes too much time especially on 322 at lunchtime, you can't even go through it," said Cataldo.

Chestnut Street bridge closed in January and was slated to be replaced, because of aging and structural problems.

Borough Manager Steve Sullins told Action News all the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted to replace it, but said the big hold up is Amtrak. The trains run right under the bridge.

"I have heard it is a two-day job. Two days. So almost $6-million is being held up for two days," Sullins said.

Sullins said Amtrak needs to do some electrical work to make replacing the bridge safe, but said the national rail operator has gone silent. For now, the project is at a standstill. There is no start date or completion date.

"Initially we heard a year and then it got to be 19 months and now with the extra six months of non-activity on it, I mean who knows, that is what the scary part is," Dague said.

Amtrak released a statement to Action News saying:

Amtrak has been working closely with the Borough of Downingtown to progress this bridge project and has issued a permit to the Borough's contractor to begin the work. Before the work can begin, all existing utilities, such as electricity and communications, must be relocated and temporary grade crossings must be installed. Amtrak continues to coordinate with our partners to advance the completion of this infrastructure project.
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