Access between northern parts of Hellertown and points west of the Saucon Creek has been further restricted, following a decision to close the 101-year-old High Street Bridge that spans an old Norfolk-Southern rail line culvert.
The High Street Bridge is located entirely within the City of Bethlehem, but its eastern entrance sits on the Bethlehem-Hellertown municipal boundary.
According to an article published Saturday in the Express-Times, city officials cited structural deficiencies as the reason for closure of the narrow span.
Constructed in 1910 out of timber, the High Street Bridge was already labeled "structurally deficient" by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) prior to the recent closure.
However, at that time PennDOT Safety Officer for Engineering District 5 Sean Brown emphasized that local bridges labeled as being "structurally deficient" would not be kept open if they were found to be unsafe during routine safety inspections.
According to PennDOT, a bridge's sufficiency rating is a calculated score indicative of "its ability to meet the traffic demands and safety needs for the route it carries."
A bridge is considered to be entirely sufficient if its structural sufficiency rating is 100, and it is considered to be entirely deficient if its structural sufficiency rating is 0.
When the state requests federal funding for bridge replacement or reconstruction, bridges with low sufficiency ratings are eligible for more funds, and bridges with ratings of 49 or less are eligible for replacement funding.
Prior to its closure, the High Street Bridge had a 3-ton posted weight limit and allowed westbound traffic from Hellertown access to Ravena Street in Bethlehem and points beyond.
Via Ravena Street, motorists were able to reach the Fire Lane bridge across the Saucon Creek, just beyond the intersection of Ravena and Silvex Road under I-78.
As a result of the High Street Bridge closure, motorists headed west from the north end of Hellertown will need to drive north on Route 412 and turn left onto Silvex Road in order to cross the Saucon Creek via the Fire Lane bridge.
Meanwhile, residents of Ravena Street have found themselves living on a temporarily dead-end street, thanks to the closure of both the High Street Bridge and the Seidersville Road metal truss bridge ealier this year.
The two closed bridges sit on either side of the south end of Ravena Street, which runs from north to south and is sandwiched in between the old rail culvert on the east and the Saucon Creek on the west.
High Street becomes Seidersville Road on the west side of the High Street Bridge, in the City of Bethlehem.
The Seidersville Road bridge, which was built in 1936 and spans the Saucon Creek, had provided a direct motor route between the north end of Hellertown and Creek Road in Bethlehem, before officials closed it following a safety inspection over the winter.