my view

Regarding the Milanville Bridge Survey

An open letter to PennDOT

By ED WESELY
Posted 5/19/21

I’ve only answered a couple of the questions in the PennDOT survey, and this note will explain why.

To begin with, I have no idea what is meant by an “Environmental Linkages Study to …

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my view

Regarding the Milanville Bridge Survey

An open letter to PennDOT

Posted

I’ve only answered a couple of the questions in the PennDOT survey, and this note will explain why.

To begin with, I have no idea what is meant by an “Environmental Linkages Study to identify a path forward for the Skinners Falls Bridge.” What you’ve asked us to submit is a user’s traffic survey. Imagine promoting such a survey to “identify a path forward” for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge while ignoring its structural beauty and its magnificent setting in the bay. You would be run out of town.

A traffic study to determine the future of the beautiful Milanville Bridge ignores “outstandingly remarkable” qualities identified in a recent Interior Department review—qualities that contributed to the Upper Delaware River’s designation as a National Scenic River.

The federal government has invested millions of dollars in grants to Upper Delaware townships, and in studies and programs to maintain the viability of the river’s exceptional water quality and scenic values.

The beautiful Milanville Eddy, the setting of our historical bridge, also contains extraordinary scenic and cultural values. And it is contiguous to the Milanville Historic District, which has merited listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inveigh as they will against the existing bridge, the Wayne County Commissioners and Damascus Supervisors continue to ignore the strong national interest that led Congress to designate this reach of the Upper Delaware as a component of our National Scenic River System.

I urge that PennDOT recognize these values by 1) restoring the historic Milanville Bridge, and by 2) respecting its historical setting—one of the most beautiful in our valley.

And please respect our local history. Milanville Bridge is the correct historical name; it was built by the Milanville Bridge Company, formed ca. 1900 by Milton Skinner, great-grandson of Daniel Skinner, for whom Skinners Falls is named.

Critics of the historic Milanville Bridge point out that, in recent years, its been closed several times because of structural problems. But I doubt that they have been caused by intrinsic flaws in the bridge structure. Perhaps they indicate poor maintenance and supervision by PennDOT. For many years, even a nine-ton load limit was ignored by bridge users. And PennDOT did little or nothing to enforce this limit. Until very recently, I myself have witnessed tour buses and occasional log trucks cross the bridge.

Important maintenance lessons can be learned from a similar Baltimore truss bridge that carries thousands of commuter cars a week across the Middle Delaware River at Dingman’s Ferry PA. It’s a privately owned toll bridge whose owners have provided its continuing maintenance and inspection since 1900. Before writing off the Milanville Bridge, I urge PennDOT and the AECOM Company to visit Dingmans Ferry and see for themselves how viable a Baltimore Truss bridge may be when properly maintained, even with the nine-ton load limit that this bridge has.

It’s also troubling to me that PennDOT spent $17 million to build a new 40-ton bridge at Pond Eddy on the Upper Delaware river to serve a handful of permanent residents on the Pennsylvania shore, long hemmed in by a railroad and a state forest—whose “road system” was a couple of dirt and pot-holed macadam lanes, one of them blocked from time to time by a “no trespassing” sign.

Ed Wesely, a long-time resident of Damascus Township, is most widely known for his work with monarch butterflies and his love for the area.

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