Businesses along the Penn Street corridor in Berks County are enjoying their last few days of unrestricted traffic.
The state Department of Transportation is preparing to install long-term restrictions as part of a project to rehabilitate the Penn Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Schuylkill River Trail and Front Street in Reading and West Reading. The restrictions begin Sunday night.
J. D. Eckman Inc. of Atglen is the general contractor on the $42.58 million project, which is expected to run through December 2019. The project will rehabilitate the structurally deficient 27-span concrete arch bridge.
The impact will be significant for businesses and commuters. This section of Penn Street has an average daily traffic volume of nearly 34,000 vehicles and is a major artery into Reading.
Since the project will affect everything from tourism venues such as Santander Arena to mom-and-pop retail shops in the area, business, government and community groups have been working to ensure plans are in place to mitigate the impact of traffic delays, said Gail Landis, senior vice president of the Greater Reading Chamber and Economic Development Corp.
“We want to keep the community vibrant during the rehabilitation project. We want people to know we’re still open for business,” Landis said.
Landis said one of the most important goals is making sure the public is aware of the impeding travel restrictions.
Restrictions will begin Sunday around 10 p.m. and will last until the end of the project.
The U.S. Route 422 west ramp to Penn Street will be closed and detoured. The posted detour will utilize the Business 222/Lancaster Avenue exit to Bingaman Street and Fifth Street.
Also, one of the two eastbound lanes will be restricted heading into Reading on the Penn Street Bridge.
For the final three-to-six months of the project there will be a single lane both eastbound and westbound on the Penn Street Bridge.
To keep the public up-to-date on lane closures, detours and recommended alternate routes, a website was created www.readingbridges.net that will be updated with the latest bridge construction information.
Landis said Reading Bridges Partnership, the public/private partnership created to deal with bridge construction-related issues, is working with employers to develop telecommuting plans and alternative work start and stop times to mitigate traffic at peak times. It also is working with public transportation to assist with commuting options.
The Penn Street Bridge, built in 1913, is 1,337 feet long and 80 feet wide.