Bridge Repaired, On List for Replacement

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COURTDALE -- A bridge on Route 309 in Luzerne County may be put on the fast track to be replaced.

A hole opened up in the deck of the bridge in the back mountain Thursday morning, causing several cars to blow tires.

The bridge built in 1963 shows the kind of wear and tear seen on older bridges, and when the hole popped open where Memorial Highway meets the North Cross Valley Expressway near Kingston during the morning commute in Courtdale, repair crews blocked one of Route 309's southbound lanes.

"Traffic was backed up from Kingston, all the way to our front door, which is like three miles," said Herb Tietje, manager at Kost Tire outlet along the route.

Tietje had a front row seat to the traffic tie-up.

"Soon after, I had to go up the road, and it was backed up another mile past, so about a four mile back up total," Tietje said.

PennDOT lists the Route 309 bridge as structurally-deficient, and plans to replace it.

"We have a list of bridges in our office that we're always looking at and always evaluating," said PennDOT official James May. "We are going to go back and look at this right now, and determine is this one we need to move up on the priority list?"

PennDOT's own data indicates the bridge has a low fitness score.

Construction is already underway to replace bridges in our area with lower scores, including the Harrison Avenue Bridge in Scranton, and the McCall Memorial Bridge in the Lehighton area.

PennDOT has not set a specific date to replace the bridge on Route 309.  The agency has to determine what the new bridge will look like, how it plans to detour traffic, and how construction will affect the environment, specifically Toby Creek.

Tietje hopes to soon see crews replacing the bridge where repairs jammed rush hour.

"They're just trying to get to work. They hit a pothole, tear a tire up, they have to take time out of their day to get it fixed, or they sit in traffic for hours to get to work," said Tietje.

Crews finished repairing the hole in the bridge's deck Thursday afternoon.

Even if PennDOT moves up the bridge's replacement, officials say that will still take at least four to five years.