Scudder Falls Bridge
|Scudder Falls Bridge|
|Locale||Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Scudders Falls, Ewing Township, Mercer County, New Jersey|
|Official name||Scudder Falls Toll Supported Bridge|
|Maintained by||Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission|
|Design||Plate girder bridge|
|Total length||1,740 feet (530 m)|
|Width||60 feet (18 m)|
|Longest span||180 feet (55 m)|
The Scudder Falls Bridge is a plate girder bridge that carries Interstate 95 over the Delaware River, connecting Lower Makefield Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with the Scudders Falls section of Ewing Township in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. This bridge, which was constructed from 1958 to 1959, is maintained by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, but currently is toll-free. This bridge is the southernmost freeway-standard bridge over the Delaware River that requires no tolls for vehicular traffic in either direction. The states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania have, in recent years, proposed replacement of the bridge, widening I-95 in the area from four lanes to six, and reconstruction of the interchanges at both ends of the bridge.
The Scudder Falls Bridge derives its name from Richard Betts Scudder, who according to the Long Island Genealogy Surname Database, died in 1754 at "Scudders Falls, Hunterdon County" (Mercer County was part of Hunterdon County until 1838). One of Richard Scudder's ancestors from Kent, England was named Henry Skudder. The k in the surname apparently became a c at some point in time, helping to give the falls and modern-day bridge its name. The "falls" (really just an area of rapids) are located about 1/2 mile north of the bridge, and the entrance to the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park just north of the bridge is signed as the "Scudders Falls" unit. The extra s at the end of "Scudders" was dropped to make pronunciation of the bridge's name easier.
Following the destruction of the Yardley-Wilburtha Bridge in the August flood of 1955, plans were made to build a new bridge about 1.3 miles (2.1 km) north of the old site. The Delaware River Joint Toll Commission was responsible for the construction of the bridge, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania built the approaches to each side. Because the bridge was not originally part of the Interstate Highway System, the cost of construction was not 90% covered by the Federal government. Instead, they covered 50% of the cost of the new span, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania paid the remaining 50% of the total bill, as with an ordinary U.S. Highway route.
In April 1958, the location of the future Scudder Falls Bridge was approved with little opposition. Construction, overseen by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, began in May of the same year and was completed in 1959. The new bridge, which had cost $8.4 million, opened to traffic on June 22, 1961. The Yardley-Wilburtha Bridge was rebuilt as a temporary crossing before the Scudder Falls Bridge began being built. It was completely torn down in 1961 when Scudder Falls Bridge opened.
Scudder Falls Bridge was built using two-span continuous steel-plate girders. Its two end spans are each 150 feet (46 m) long, while each of the eight middle spans measure 180 feet (55 m). The bridge's total length is 1,740 feet (530 m).
Since 2003, the Bridge Commission has been working on plans to replace the bridge, improve the safety and traffic flow of its two immediately adjoining interchanges (Taylorsville Road in Pennsylvania and Route 29 in New Jersey), and widen the Pennsylvania stretch of I-95 leading to and from the bridge (from two lanes to three lanes). The project is necessary because the current configurations of the bridge, interchanges and roadways suffer from numerous inadequacies. At the present time, the bridge consists of a roadway 48 feet (15 m) wide, split into four twelve-foot lanes. Opposing traffic is separated by a Jersey barrier. Current design standards call for, at minimum, the addition of an inside shoulder 3 feet (0.91 m) wide (adding 6 feet (1.8 m) to its current width) and an outside shoulder 12 feet (3.7 m) wide (adding 24 feet (7.3 m) to its current width). The closely spaced interchanges on both ends of the bridge require the addition of acceleration and decelaration lanes (the Commission refers to them as "auxiliary lanes"), of which there are currently none.
According to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission's 2002 Southerly Crossings Corridor Study, Scudders Fall Bridge carries roughly 55,000 vehicles per day (traffic counts have increased since then), well beyond the design load of 40,000 vehicles per day. By 2030, traffic volumes are expected to increase by 35%, the equivalent of 19,000 additional vehicles. This amount of traffic would require two to perhaps four additional travel lanes (24 to perhaps 48 additional feet of roadway width). According to the project's Environmental Assessment, the new bridge will have two additional through-travel lanes, resulting in a total of six through lanes (three in each direction).
Also mentioned by the 2002 study is that Scudder Falls Bridge has been given a Level of Service (LOS) grade of "F" during peak rush hours and afternoons. This grade denotes the worst service conditions and the highest congestion rate. At times other than brief rush hour delays, traffic traveling the bridge is relatively light. The condition of the bridge has also been a growing concern in recent years. Even though routine inspections in recent years have not revealed any serious structural problems, the bridge is over 50 years old and is likely deteriorating rapidly. The bridge is also similar in design to the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, which suffered a fatal collapse in 1983.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2011 and take three to four years to complete. The bridge will be widened to between 130 and 140 feet (43 m).
The bridge would consist of six through-travel lanes and three auxiliary lanes (two in the northbound direction and one in the southbound direction) to handle traffic accelerating onto the bridge or decelerating off of the bridge at the two closely spaced adjoining interchanges. The envisioned bridge also would have shoulders to handle vehicle breakdowns and emergencies, with the two inside shoulders being wide enough to handle proposed regional bus-rapid transit service. The Commission also has expressed interest in adding a bicycle/pedestrian facility to the new bridge, but has a stated that a decision on this will not be made until the final design phase.
To help finance this multi-faceted improvement project, the Commission voted in late December 2009 to establish tolling at the crossing.
Commission officials have stated that tolls would be collected in the southbound direction with an all-electronic tolling, or "cashless tolling" gantry consisting of E-ZPass transponder readers and high-resolution cameras (no cash toll booths) constructed on the bridge. (All of the toll bridges along the Delaware River collect tolls in either the southbound or westbound directions—going from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.)
Commission officials have not yet established a date for when these tolls would take effect.
The Delaware River Joint Toll Commission has stated that the introduction of cashless tolling at the bridge is necessary to help finance its capital program, of which the multi-faceted Scudder Falls Bridge Replacement Project would be its largest single construction initiative in its 75-year history. The Commission is funded solely by tolls collected at its seven current toll bridges; it receives no gasoline tax revenues or state or federal support. Commission executives have stated that it would be unfair to have the project financed solely by motorists using its other toll bridges, individuals who have been subsidizing the Scudder Falls facility already for more than two decades.
- "Traffic Counts". Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Richman, Steven M. (2003). The Bridges of New Jersey, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Page 150. ISBN 0-8135-3510-7.
- "Scudder Falls Bridge". Eastern Roads. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Richman, p. 149.
- "Scudder Falls Toll Supported Bridge". Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-18.
- "Scudders Fall bridge to be replaced". Constructioneer. July 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-18.[dead link]
- English, Chris (December 22, 2009). "Toll likely coming to Scudder Falls Bridge". The Intelligencer.