We were delighted to have Joe Donnelly from the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission ("DRJTBC") join us this morning
to provide an historical background of the Scudder Falls Bridge and the bridge replacement project which is underway with parts of the project nearing completion.
The Scudder Falls Bridge derives its name from Richard Betts Scudder, who according to the Long Island Genealogy Surname Database, died in 1754 at “Scudders Fallssss I nHunterdon County, NJ (portions of Mercer County were part of Hunterdon County until 1838). One of Richard Scudder's ancestors from Kent, England was named Henry Skudder. The “k” in the surname apparently became a “c” at some point in time, helping to give the falls and modern-day bridge its name. The "falls" (really just an area of rapids) are located about ½ mile north of the bridge,
Following the destruction of the Yardley-Wilburtha Bridge in the August flood of 1955, plans were made to build a new bridge about 1.3 miles north of the old site.
The DRJTBC was responsible for the construction of the bridge, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania built the approaches to each side. Because the bridge was not originally part of the Interstate Highway System, the cost of construction was not 90% covered by the Federal government. Instead, they covered 50% of the cost of the new span, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania paid the remaining 50% of the total bill, as with an ordinary U.S. Highway route.
In April 1958, the location of the future Scudder Falls Bridge was approved with little opposition. Construction, overseen by the DRJTBC, began in May of the same year and was completed in 1959.
The new bridge, which had cost $8.4 million, didn't open to traffic on June 22, 1961 as the entrance and exit ramps were not complete until 18 months after the completion of the bridge itself.
The man in the light suit cutting the ribbon is a "Scudder"
The Yardley-Wilburtha Bridge was rebuilt as a temporary crossing before the Scudder Falls Bridge began being built. It was completely torn down in 1961 when the Scudder Falls Bridge opened. The Scudder Falls Bridge originally carried I-95over the Delaware River. I n March 2018, I-95 was renumbered to I-295 across the bridge as part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate I-95 Interchange Project that completed the gap in I-95 … which not runs from Maine to Miami with no gaps.
The entire project consisted of a 4.4 mile stretch from Bear Tavern Road in Ewing New Jersey to the Newtown Bypass (PA-332) in Lower Makefield.
Its major elements and milestones were summarized as
New Scudder Falls Bridge
Replace the current congestion-prone, functionally obsolete Scudder Falls Bridge with a dual-span structure carrying six thru-traffic lanes (three in each direction) and three auxiliary lanes (two Pennsylvania to New Jersey bound, one New Jersey to Pennsylvania bound) for traffic merging onto and off the bridge and shoulders for breakdown/emergency access.
Erect noise-abatement walls where warranted in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as part of the main construction contract beginning in 2017 until project completion in 2021. Advance noise wall construction in Pennsylvania was completed in June 2017.
I-95/I-295 Roadway Improvements
Widen the bridge’s Pennsylvania I-295 approach, increasing the roadway to three lanes in each direction. Improve drainage and approach-roadway exit/entry transitions in New Jersey; both project components to be completed in 2021.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Path
Construct a pedestrian/bicycle walkway on the new bridge’s upstream side with ramps and pathways to recreational canal towpaths in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; open for public use in 2021.
Reconstruct the entire I-295/Route 29 Interchange (Exit 76) and its associated ramps and structures in Ewing, New Jersey; to be completed late 2020 or early 2021. Reconfigure the I-295/Taylorsville Road Interchange (Exit 10) in Lower Makefield, PA; to be completed in 2021.
All-Electronic Tolling System
Install an all-electronic tolling (AET) gantry and related infrastructure for highway-speed toll collection using E-ZPass tag readers and high-speed cameras for license-plate billing in 2019; tolls collected in the Pennsylvania bound direction only.
Joe's eassy-ging style eenhanced his presentation
as he shared information on the progress of the replaacement bridge
and answering a wide-ranging number of questions about the project's future timing.
Approximately 135,000 cubic feet of concrete will be needed to complete the upstream span’s road deck. That works out to around 20 million pounds of concrete, or roughly 10,000 tons. More than 500 concrete truck loads will be needed to carry out the entire process.
Steel pans and rebar were installed across the entire bridge deck late last year in preparation for the pouring of the concrete deck. This was followed the placement of the bridge’s steel support girders earlier in the year. The girders sit atop bearings that allow for expansion and contraction of the bridge deck as temperature rise and ebb annually with the seasons. The bearings rest on piers and abutments that were constructed in late 2017 and the first half of 2018.
The bridge’s upstream span is the first of two, side-by-side bridge structures that will comprise the Scudder Falls Toll Bridge. Each structure will have continuous-span decks, a design that reduces the number of deck joints that can contribute to decay or failure in a bridge structure.
By July 10th, the off and on ramps to and from NJ-29 should be open and the new span will begin to carry two-way traffic. The tolling of traffic (westbound into Pennsyvania – only) will begin at 12:01 AM on July 15th.
The current bridge will then be removed and aa new eastbound (PA to NJ) bridge constructed.
On the north side of the southbound lanes, a pedestrian/bike bridge will be opened with access to the canal paths in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey
When the project is finally completed in 2021, the lane profile will look as follows:
Joe also made a pitch for people who do not already have EZ Pass to get signed-up as the sysssstem is pervasive from Virginia to Illinois to Maine (excepting Connecticut and Vermont where there are no toll roads)
And it is economical. In just one trip a month across the westbound lane of the new Scudder Falls Bridge a person could save moree than the monthly cost of having an EZ Pass transponder!