Post by: Lauren Golden, Trail & Stewardship Manager at D&L
Carbon County is so very close to being the first of the 5 counties with its section of D&L Trail fully connected. Although the Mansion House Bridge in Jim Thorpe will close the final Carbon County trail gap, there are improvements that still must be made to ensure universal access to all who wish to use the trail. Some of these necessary improvements happen to directly connect to the Mansion House Bridge (historic picture below).
The Mansion House Bridge lands on the eastern bank of the Lehigh River roughly 15 feet above the elevation of the trail. For everyone to be able to use and enjoy the D&L Trail, we must work to meet the universal access standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that the slope of the connection between bridge and trail cannot be more than 5%, or in other words a gentle downgrade for approximately 800 linear feet. In order to achieve this gentle slope, from 15 feet above grade down to the trail level, we need to build a retaining wall that extends southward from the eastern bridge abutment. This wall will reinforce trail stability and also help protect Jim Thorpe’s Waste Water Treatment Plant in the event of a flood.
Delaware & Lehigh staff has tried to incorporate this work into the bridge project initially, but the type of work, revenue streams, and expenses were too complex. Hence the projects were split. With the bridge project moving along nicely, we are turning our attention to this next, much needed improvement project with an assist from Jim Thorpe Borough. Currently, our expected project schedule has the adjacent retaining wall construction and trail improvement work beginning in very early spring 2018. This means that although the bridge will open upon completion, it may need to close again for construction of the retaining wall on the east side of the river very soon after opening. If at all possible, a safe detour will be provided. Stay tuned!
We are working closely with Carbon County Commissioners and Chamber of Commerce to plan a ribbon cutting for the bridge in June 2018. This event will celebrate the completion of the Mansion House Bridge, help mark the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor’s 30th anniversary, and occur during the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn. It will be an auspicious ceremonial event, but will not mark the opening of the east side section of trail just yet.
We appreciate your support and understanding as we continue this complex multi-phase project.