Northampton Street Bridge

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Northampton Street Bridge
Carries 3 lanes of Northampton Street and 2 sidewalks
Crosses Delaware River
Locale Easton, PA, and Phillipsburg, NJ
Official name Northampton Street Toll Supported Bridge
Other name(s) The Free Bridge
Easton-Phillipsburg Bridge
Maintained by Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission
Preceded by Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge
Followed by Lehigh Valley Railroad Bridge
Total length 560 feet (170 m)
Load limit 3 short tons (2.7 t)
Designer James Madison Porter III
Opened 1896
Replaces Ferry (1739-1806)
Covered bridge (1806-1896)

The Northampton Street Bridge is a bridge that crosses the Delaware River, connecting Easton, Pennsylvania and Phillipsburg, New Jersey, United States. It is maintained by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission despite not being a toll bridge. It is known locally as the "Free Bridge" thus distinguishing it from the Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge just upstream to the north. The crossing was first a ferry crossing run by David Martin, beginning in 1739. The original wooden bridge opened on October 14, 1806. The original bridge was designed and built by Timothy Palmer, one of the most famous bridge builders of his time. Palmer's covered bridge at Easton endured many floods and storms while other bridges fell.

However, by the late nineteenth century, when horse-drawn streetcars were replaced by trolley cars, the old wooden bridge could no longer handle the demands of traffic and a new structure was erected in 1895. The new bridge was designed by James Madison Porter III, an alumnus of nearby Lafayette College and later a professor of civil engineering there. Porter hailed from a family long prominent in Easton and Pennsylvania history.

Tolls were charged until 1921, when the DRJTBC bought it from the Delaware Bridge Company.[1]

The Northampton Street Bridge sustained major damage during Hurricane Diane when floodwaters, 44 feet (13 m) above normal water level, topped the roadway of the bridge on August 19, 1955. Although the bridge withstood this topping, when large floating wooden pieces of the Portland-Columbia covered bridge which was washed out in the same flood waters were jammed against the bridge, the center of the span was torn away.

Tolls on the Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge were ten cents at the time, but they were lowered to five cents until the Northampton Street Bridge was repaired. The United States Army Corps of Engineers installed two parallel Bailey bridges between the damaged free bridge and the toll bridge. Each Bailey bridge had four spans. These remained in place until the free bridge was repaired.

Repairs carried out by Bethlehem Steel over the next two years made the bridge usable but the flood damage left a readily apparent sag in the center span that remains today.[2]

Another series of improvements were completed in the summer of 2002 and included structural steel repair and replacement, painting, and the replacement and installation of sidewalk decking and new pedestrian railings.

The bridge is currently posted for a three-ton weight limit and a fifteen-mile per hour speed limit.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lance Metz, Northampton Street Bridge Took Hit In '55 Hurricane, The Morning Call, October 17, 1993
  2. ^ Spivey, Justin M. (August 1998). "Northampton Street Bridge" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 1. Retrieved January 31, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°41′30″N 75°12′14″W / 40.691545°N 75.204004°W / 40.691545; -75.204004