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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Bridge repairs continue

Workers shut down a lane of City Avenue for bridge repairs (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

The McShain pedestrian bridge is expected to reopen in November after undergoing structural repairs needed to address deteriorating steel.

Following an inspection in 2017, the bridge was closed for temporary repairs. The bridge was closed again in May 2018 for permanent repairs and has remained closed ever since.

Part of the difficulty of repairing the bridge is due to the original design, said Kevin Kane, director of Facilities Management. Because the bridge is clad in limestone, it does not allow for easy access to the steel bearings inside the bridge.

“One of the engineers commented it’s built more like a building than a bridge because the masonry is connected directly to the steel,” Kane said.

The bridge was built in 1988 as part of the construction of McShain Hall. O’Donnell & Naccarato designed and provided structural engineering services for the original creation of the pedestrian bridge.

Driscoll Construction Company is in charge of the repairs and restoration.

“I think they chose form over function,” Kane said. “They designed something that was really beautiful and was strong and awesome, but it couldn’t be maintained properly.”

Inclement weather has also slowed down the process. Philadelphia has experienced one of the wettest years on record.

“The rain really held us up over the summer,” Kane said, “and now it’s a meticulous process of assessing, repairing and checking.”

The main repairs to the bridge involve cleaning and replacing the steel bearings that were found to be rusting and deteriorating. New drainage and waterproofing are also being put in place to prevent water from sitting within the structure.

In addition to the structural improvements to the bridge, new lighting will be installed along with outlets to allow for the possible use of heated mats in the winter, Kane said.

“I don’t think it’s unexpected to think that the bridge would be down or out of service for some period of time to perform this type of maintenance,” Kane said.

The bridge also serves as a pathway for network cabling and a high-voltage electric system.

Former St. Joe’s President Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J., who was instrumental in getting the bridge project approved and built, said in an interview with The Hawk last year that it was his idea to use the bridge to run electricity from one side of campus to another.

“When we were putting up the bridge, I said we should put in a huge cable that enables us to transmit electricity from one side of the street to the other,” Rashford said. “We put in generators and would switch to whatever side was cheaper.”

Connor Tudja ’22, a resident in McShain Hall, said McShain residents have not received any updates since an initial email noting the bridge’s closure at the beginning of the semester.

“A lot of people are wondering about it,” Tudja said. “The running joke is no one’s ever working on it even though it’s under construction.”

Tudja said the bridge closure has been an inconvenience for him, especially when he is trying to get to his 8 a.m. classes, because of the long wait for the light at City Avenue.

The bridge served as a safe way for students, faculty, staff and visitors to cross City Avenue above traffic. This semester, since the bridge has been out of service, Public Safety has stationed officers at Cardinal Avenue and Lapsley Lane to help pedestrians cross safely.

“We place officers during periods of pedestrian volume,” Art Grover, director of Public Safety, said in an email to The Hawk. “The officers’ presence and assistance for safe crossing when needed aims to improve the safety profile at these critical intersections.”

The bridge closure has led to large groups of students trying to cross at the crosswalks in between classes — or others jaywalking.

Safety is a concern for David Dessberg ’22, another resident of McShain.

“Once the weather grows worse, I’m concerned that using City Avenue could become an actual safety concern, as slick road conditions combined with the reckless driving we all witness on the daily is a recipe for disaster,” Dessberg said.

Kane said the university is pushing contractors to finish as quickly as possible.

“Right now we’re looking for sometime in November and we’re beating up the contractor daily to expedite and give us a better date,” Kane said.

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