On Wednesday night, the Narberth Borough Council voted to spend $300,000 to repair the Narberth Avenue and reopen it to vehicle traffic, probably in January.
This is expected to end the bridge's second closure for structural reasons in a year, and it comes a little more than a year before the bridge is slated to be demolished and replaced.
Some at the meeting supported repairing the bridge to boost access to downtown businesses, while others considered $300,000 a steep price to fix a bridge that will be gone in a couple years.
Below are some direct quotes from the meeting, listed chronologically. Add your own thoughts in the comments section at the end of the article.
Craig Suhoskey, Pennoni & Associates engineer: "It's a 100-year-old structure that has a mind of its own sometimes. ... In general, bridges that are this deteriorated tend to deteriorate quickly in unpredictable ways. (But) we have a good handle on what's deficient with this bridge."
Bob Wegbreit, Narberth councilman and south side resident: "We can put a cost to every single thing if we want to and say, 'Oh, should we have that or not?' We invest in these things because it's part of what makes our community work."
Missy French, Woodbine Avenue resident: "The town is dead. The number of people we see (walking downtown) is cut by more than half. I have grave concerns for (the bridge) not being reopened."
Laura Kelly, owner of The Handwork Studio on Narberth Avenue, close to the bridge: "I have three full-time and nine part-time people in that shop. It's not just the viability of my business but also the livelihood of other people. While I would never want to put a tax burden on anyone, when you’re talking about $30 a year, you’re talking about pennies a day for what is more certainty. ... We really don’t know when that bridge is going to be replaced. But what we do know is that for $30 a year we could have complete access. I wish that you would take that into consideration."
Wegbreit: "For 10 to 12 years, it's been on our plate in borough council. We've been preparing; it's more an issue of the process moving forward from the dynamics of Amtrak and PennDOT. ... We have much more definitive knowledge than we did eight years ago when you started hearing these things."
Annie Steinberg, Grove Place resident and owner of The Bridge on Narberth Avenue: "I don't know how many businesses are going to come back. Some of them have many years, decades of history, and they're going to close up."
Traci Baird, Elmwood Avenue resident: "We’re just spending so much less time in town. We’re circumventing it. ... We’re feeling much less connected to our friends on the other side. I think it would be a huge value to reunite our town, to keep the roadways safe and clear."
Deborah Lonsdorf, Chestnut Avenue resident and president of the Narberth Civic Association: "This is a lot of money to spend on something that may last six months. Another beam may go, we don’t know … It is going to close for a long time at some point, and everybody’s got to work together and support these businesses."
Heidi Boise, Narberth councilwoman: "Since (the initial closing) people are used to it more. I didn't see empty parking spots, I saw a pretty vibrant downtown today."
Michael Alexander, Narberth councilman: "My opinion is that maybe a better solution would be to work on traffic flow improvement through the tunnel more aggressively."
Bob Weisbord, Narberth councilman: "It occurs to me as we sit here that we don’t know what the impact of spending $300K would be."
Boise: "People will get used to it. It's a 5-minute drive. ... I hate to see this be a bone of contention. It really is a temporary thing. I don’t see two and a half to three years being an eternity."
Wegbreit: "It's not about having trouble getting into town, it's about not getting into town."
Andrea Deutsch, Narberth councilwoman: "Which is going to be the lesser of the evils? ... I am thinking encouraging shopping-downtown patterns is more important."
Aaron Muderick, Narberth council vice president: "Maintaining our highways is a fundamental part of municipal government, allowing people to travel from A to B. ... It is clear we need to take control of the situation and swallow the bitter pill and repair the bridge. In a lot of ways, this is $300,000 we will not enjoy. I would love to do economic development for $300,000, but two to three years is an eternity for a business."