Hopewell Township held a public meeting on Wednesday, January 27 seeking community input about the future of the historic Mine Road Bridge. The truss bridge, straddling the Stony Brook on Mine Road off of Route 31 in Hopewell Township, suffered some damage in recent years. It is owned by Mercer County which proposes to replace the bridge with an entirely new, much wider structure. Prior to being damaged, the bridge was rated for a 7-ton load; the adjoining road, which is owned by Hopewell Township is rated for 4 tons. For comparison, the Washington Crossing Bridge across the Delaware River has a 3-ton rating.
The County proposes to replace the bridge with a new, 40-ton load capacity structure. Representatives from the County, George Fallat, county engineer, and Basit “Sunny” Muzaffar, assistant county engineer, presented a description of the structure as “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” and offered two options: 1) full replacement; or 2) leave current structure as-is and keep closed to vehicular traffic.
“The bridge has to be brought up to current standards — whatever alternative we decide — if we’re using State money,” stated Fallat.
Erected in 1885, the Mine Road Truss Bridge is one of only two iron truss bridges that remain in Hopewell Township and is the only one in its original site. In 2011, the County completely renovated the bridge, but it was damaged by a fallen tree limb several years later.
When asked why a “minor” repair to fix the tree damage is not an option, County representatives reported that it received approval from NJDEP to replace the structure but not to repair it for vehicular traffic. In its approval, DEP explained: “The cost of this rehabilitation alternative would be similar to a replacement alternative as the work involved is equivalent to the replacement of the bridge. Although this alternative would strive to meet project needs of preserving character-defining features of the historic structure, increasing live load capacity and improving public safety and geometrics, it would cause serious hydraulic and environmental impacts in the area. Hence this alternative will not be adopted for this project.”
The second option of retaining the current structure as a pedestrian bridge was proposed as an alternative by the Hopewell Township Historic Preservation Commission (HTHPC) in a resolution passed in fall 2020. In that resolution, the HTHPC formally requested that the Township Committee urge the County reconsider its plans to completely replace the historic Mine Road Truss Bridge, based on the Bridge’s deep local history and designation as a Township historic landmark. In this option, the County says that it would keep the structure open for bikes and pedestrians, maintain the structure, and install pedestrian railings but not repair the Bridge.
“It would remain as it is today but closed to vehicular traffic,” said Muzaffar.
When pressed by Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning and Committee-member Michael Ruger as to why the County would not repair the damage caused by the tree under the pedestrian bridge option, County representatives said they would inquire from DEP whether that aesthetic damage could be fixed.
During public comment, members of the public spoke passionately about the history and character of the Mine Road Bridge and many expressed a wish that the existing bridge be restored to allow vehicular traffic at the current rating. Commenters urged the County to assess the existing damage and explore restoration. No member of the public who spoke supported complete replacement.
Hopewell Township is soliciting input and questions. Please contact Laurie Gompf, the Township Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.