Chestnut Street in Downingtown, PA is a bustling and heavily traveled route for locals and commuters alike. On April 1, officials gathered at the site of a new, $5.9 million bridge on Chestnut Street that reconnects people to two neighboring municipalities, Downingtown Borough and East Caln Township, over Amtrak and Norfolk Southern train tracks leading eastbound to Philadelphia and beyond.


The project to revamp the 93-year-old overpass took a little over two years to complete and involved years of planning by construction, infrastructure, and transportation experts across multiple agencies spanning local, regional, state, and federal governmental bodies.


The reopening of Chestnut Street returns an important thoroughfare to the community and provides a safer crossing for traveling motorists. The new bridge was named in honor of Bill Mason, a lifelong Downingtown resident and former Borough Council Member.


We sat down with John Bush, PE, MAS of our Exton, PA office to learn more about the project. 

What was McCormick Taylor's role in this project?

McCormick Taylor performed the Construction Inspection on this project, along with Mezvinsky Associates as the sub-consultant. Representing Downingtown Borough, we performed daily construction inspections of the contractor’s work, which involved writing daily logs and measuring quantities. We made payments to the contractor, approved materials, approved additional work, did wage rate checks, and coordinated typical timing constraints imposed by the railroad, which included taking lines out of service while work was being performed overhead. Some other duties included expediting communications between the contractor and designer, utility coordination, environmental concerns, ensuring the contractor stayed on schedule, and resolving the concerns of the adjacent property owner.


Did you come across any challenges while working on this project?

Coordinating with so many different companies was a challenge, but one we overcame. There are aerial utilities running across the bridge, and we couldn’t run new aerial lines until there was a permit from Amtrak put in place for all three companies.


The contractor did as much as they could, but we couldn’t take the bridge down until the utilities were replaced. Nearby businesses saw that we’d started the project, but then we couldn’t move forward. We had to communicate the delays with the community so that they knew what was going on. Once the utilities were replaced, it was more about coordinating with Norfolk Southern and Amtrak to get the old bridge down and get the new beams in.


What about the project highlights McCormick Taylor's talents?

Our communication and problem-solving skills were on display during this project. As the project manager, John ran bi-weekly meetings to keep everyone up-to-date and informed. Once the project was set up and running smoothly, John handed the duty of running the meetings over to Ed Seidel from Medveczky Associates (McCormick Taylor’s subconsultant on this project). John was still in touch with the project daily but only needed to charge minimal time, which Downingtown Borough appreciated.


Does the project have any unique considerations?

On the southern side of the bridge, a substantial amount of earthwork was needed to change the grades to match the new bridge elevation to the existing elevation of Boot Road.  Sun Belt Rentals, a rental company that supplies large equipment for contractors, is located on the corner of Boot Road and Chestnut Street. The company was going to have issues leaving their facility with equipment on low-boy trucks. We needed to stage our work to minimize the potential impact to the company. 


Can you describe some of the technical aspects of the project?

The existing structure was built in 1927. It was 5 spans and was 212 feet long. The new bridge is 170 feet long with 3 spans, 2 11-foot lanes, and a protected sidewalk. It also doesn't have a weight restriction. 


What has the feedback been like from the community?

The feedback has mostly been positive. The bridge was closed at the beginning of 2019, so the community was ready for it to reopen.

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