(9/27) Town officials received notice from Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP) that the Muddy Run Bridge will be replaced in July through October 2016 as part of a state-wide bridge replacement program by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn DOT). PWKP is the consortium hired
by Penn DOT to facilitate the bridge replacements and upkeep statewide. The Muddy Run Bridge is about a mile outside of Fairfield on Route 116 near the Highland Township office – and while the replacement of the bridge is a direct benefit to county residents, local township officials are more than a little concerned about the short term effects that closing the entire bridge will have on police,
fire, and emergency responders trying to serve the people they are sworn to protect.
Route 116 is the main artery into Hamiltonban, Fairfield, Carroll Valley, and other surrounding communities. It is the main road for emergency responders transporting people to Gettysburg Hospital.
According to officials from Highland Township, Fairfield, and Carroll Valley the 11-mile detour that has been proposed for the bridge closure is logistically a nightmare and will add 15-20 minutes conservatively to police, fire, and emergency responders – especially those who drive for Adams Regional Emergency Medical Services (AREMS); AREMS provides both basic life
support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS) services to over 15 municipalities in Adams County. Fairfield Fire Chief Bill Jacobs explained that many times the AREMS responders are not from this area, and the proposed detour may pose a particular hazard should those responders rely solely on GPS in getting to their destination.
Carroll Valley Police Chief Richard Hileman went further to say "if my officer needs back up, depending on the location, they would be coming from either Cumberland or Washington Township – every minute counts and if officers are hindered by this detour, you’re talking about a significant risk to our law enforcement and EMS."
The detour suggested by PWKP is an absolute disaster according to township officials, not only for police and emergency services, but also for local residents, tourists, school buses and truck traffic. For instance, Valley Quarries runs 15-20 trucks a day to and from Gettysburg; with the
proposed 11-mile detour, navigating those roads every day for several months will be arduous – further compounding the problem will be school bus, delivery, local, and tourist traffic.
Jacobs also said that all of the firehouses in Adams County are staffed by volunteer firefighters and emergency responders. "You’ve got volunteers who live all over Adams County – they’re not concentrated in one specific area, many live on the opposite side of the bridge. All of those volunteers have to get to the firehouse quickly; closing this bridge completely will add
at least 15-20 minutes getting there – not to mention the time getting to an accident or a fire. We’re talking about crucial minutes," he explained.
Officials are also concerned about the local impact on surrounding businesses, campgrounds and festivals, as closing the bridge entirely will begin during prime tourist season. Millions of dollars in revenue could potentially be lost, hurting an already struggling Adams County.
Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP) will replace 16 aging bridges in Adams County in just over a year, completing construction by the end of 2016. The bridges are primarily crossings on smaller state highways, many in rural areas, rather than interstate bridges or large river crossings. The PWKP consortium consists of both local and national companies experienced in
delivering major public infrastructure works. Plenary Group USA Ltd. and Walsh Investors, LLC will provide financing and long-term management for the project, while the construction work will be led by a joint venture team of Walsh Construction Company and Granite Construction Company. Walsh Infrastructure Management will provide bridge maintenance over the life of the 25-year contract.
Originally officials of PWKP said they would only be closing one lane at a time, but for reasons unknown, that statement was later retracted. The decision to switch from complete closure with an 11-mile-long detour to some other option - such as working on one lane at a time or installing a temporary bridge - would be up to Penn DOT. According to Public Information Manager
Dan Galvin, "after speaking with township officials and reading through Mayor Harris’s report, we are looking at other approaches to the complete closure of the bridge. We are talking with Penn DOT, but no decision will be made for weeks."
Highland Township Supervisor Craig Rockey, Hamiltonban Supervisor Bob Gordon, Carroll Valley Mayor Ron Harris, Carroll Valley Police Chief Richard Hileman, and Fairfield Fire Chief Bill Jacobs are leading the charge in an effort to convince Penn DOT to either leave one lane open or to construct a temporary lane running adjacent to Muddy Run Bridge.
Supervisor Gordon stated, "Police and EMS are the most critical issue – we, as township officials are legally responsible for the safety and welfare of our residents." Mayor Harris went further saying, "We are encouraging residents and local businesses to communicate their concerns with their elected officials, Penn DOT, and PWKP. This particular bridge detour is
potentially disastrous for all who live in this area, we need to have a safe alternative." Supervisor Craig Rockey ended with, "if we don’t act fast as a community, we will have lost the moment."
Residents and local businesses are encouraged to contact their state officials, PWKP and Penn DOT – Senator Richard Alloway, at email@example.com or (717) 334-4169; Representative Dan Moul at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 334-3010; Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners (PWKP) at parapidbridges.com; Penn DOT (717) 787-2838.
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