The seemingly overbuilt concrete pylons and soaring arches supporting New Hope’s Stockton Avenue bridge have stood since Ingham Creek once spanned the entire width of the valley below, and the structure continues to help vehicles and pedestrians travel between the south and north sides of New Hope while bypassing the more congested South Main Street.
Unfortunately, one of the two sidewalks on the several hundred-foot span has been closed off with barricades and hazard tape since last March due to “public safety issues,” according to Bucks County spokesperson Chris Edwards.
At issue is a portion of the western sidewalk curb measuring about five or six feet in length that is crumbling and needs repair. On March 18, 2014 the Borough asked the Road and Bridge Division of Bucks County’s General Services Department to schedule a sidewalk repair when possible in the spring. County Road and Bridge employees soon closed the affected sidewalk for its entire length, placing a sea of orange-and-white barricades and tape to block pedestrians, then failed to complete the job.
Net result: pedestrians walking in the street, kids on bikes unsure where to ride, ragged lengths of plastic tape blowing from the sides of the bridge, the inability to cross the street to avoid being followed at night, and a large eyesore for residents of West Mechanic and West Ferry streets.
County spokespersons reached for comment were largely unsympathetic to the plight of New Hope residents.
“We have 115 bridges. We’re trying to prioritize,” said Edwards.
And why is it taking so long for the county to meet with New Hope officials and fix the problem? “No comment,” responded Edwards. “It will all play itself out,” he continued nonetheless. “Go write your story.”
Gerry Anderson has overseen the county General Services Division since being appointed by the Bucks County Commissioners in 2008, and he said the sidewalk in question can only be fixed from below because damage runs through a supporting pylon. He said that construction of the Canal Street development in recent years necessitates obtaining permission from builder George Michael and/or a townhouse owner or two to move equipment to the base of the bridge.
“It takes time to get a solution on how we get down there, and unfortunately that has taken time,” said Anderson. “It’s not a matter of priority. Bucks County likes to fix all its problems, but it takes a long time because of laws to bid it out.”
Anderson said he’s meeting with the New Hope Borough manager on October 27. That suggests a solution to the Stockton Avenue mess won’t happen until 2015 at the earliest.
Borough officials have privately expressed exasperation with the county’s sluggish pace, having been rebuffed in attempts to get the project moving.