New Hope wants two bridge walkways

Merchants and residents want the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to mandate longer workdays so repairs can be done more quickly.

By: Linda Seida
   NEW HOPE — Borough officials are pressing the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to keep open the pedestrian walkway of the New Hope-Lambertville bridge when it is closed to vehicular traffic in January.
   They’ve also requested the installation of a second walkway on the side of the northbound lane.
   During a Borough Council meeting Aug. 12, council President Richard Hirschfield said the borough had made the formal request earlier this month. So far, however, the commission does not know if it can grant the borough’s wish.
   The holdup, according to commission spokeswoman Linda Spalinski, is a review by the commission’s engineering department of an analysis of New Hope’s proposal. The analysis was performed by a consulting engineer for the commission, she said.
   The commission was scheduled to hold a public meeting Wednesday after this edition of The Beacon went to press.
   "We believe it is feasible as did our engineer," council Vice President Sharyn Keiser said of the borough’s request to keep the walkway open.
   "We told them we’re not like Frenchtown and Washington Crossing," said Councilman Randy Flager.
   Despite their differences, he noted the two towns function as one entity in some respects. New Hope and Lambertville, despite belonging to different states and separation by a river, are "so cooperative, we even share rescue squad facilities."
   "Closing the bridge sort of puts a wall up in the middle of a town," Ms. Keiser said. "They (the commission) do realize the dependence on the bridge by the people who do not drive. They did say they would provide a shuttle service that would continually go back and forth. We said it was not enough unless it ran every 10 or 15 minutes."
   In its appeal to the commission, the borough used recommendations made by Doylestown resident Linc Bitting, who volunteered his services and has been consulting with local officials on ways to keep the bridge open. Through his position as a sales engineer for a scaffolding company, Eastern Scaffolding and Shoring based in Philadelphia and Long Island, Mr. Bitting has had experience with similar projects, including the Queensboro Bridge in New York.
   The council also asked for a show of hands from residents and merchants in the audience during its council meeting last week to see how many were in favor of extending the workday for bridge repairs to 9 or 10 at night. Most of the 40 persons in attendance, residents and merchants alike, were in favor of a longer workday despite acknowledging the burden of excessive noise it would place on those closest to the river. The few exceptions included a woman who had moved to the borough only recently and prized her quiet evening time by the river.
   Others, too, said they would regret the loss of tranquility and maybe even loss of sleep, yet they want the work to be over as soon as possible. Lengthening the workday would do that, officials have said, but no one yet has a firm idea of how much time could be shaved from the project, whether it would be one week, two or more.
   The commission expects the repairs to extend well into July 2004 with the workday currently scheduled for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A change would require exemptions to the noise ordinances of both Lambertville and New Hope. Neither town has yet to do so.
   "People are willing to bite the bullet despite the pain," said Robert Gerenser, a former councilman who owns a business in town. "Nobody’s looking forward to it."
   The commission intends to widen the walkway, remove the bridge’s lead paint and repaint, replace the flooring system and add historically compatible lighting fixtures, among other improvements. The bridge will be open to vehicular traffic on the weekends starting at 5 p.m. Friday and ending at 7 a.m. Monday.