READING, Pa. - Traffic trouble is on the way in Reading after transportation officials discovered a busy bridge is deteriorating.
Structural problems on the Bingaman Street Bridge have prompted PennDOT to raise the red flag. Ten beams that support the 94-year-old bridge's deck are cracking and crumbling, PennDOT announced Friday.
The finding will force the closure of one lane of the bridge in each direction, starting Monday and lasting until further notice, officials said.
"It's going to create chaos," said Glenda Gutierrez, who drives over the bridge every day. "People are going to be late to work, and people are going to be late to pick up their kids at daycare."
The bridge is a gateway into center city from the West Shore Bypass, carrying nearly 16,000 vehicles over the Schuylkill River each day. A closure is likely the beginning of a long, painfully slow commute.
"It's going to create a big traffic caboggle," said Ed Terrell, who drives over the bridge frequently.
"I see it gets packed with two lanes, so if they close one down, it's going to be worse," said Richard Fernandez.
The city's Southwest Fire Station sits at the base of the bridge on Lancaster Avenue. The acting fire chief, Gary Mogel, said the closure will impact their response time, and in their line of work every second counts.
"It's more of a concern going into Oakbrook for an actual fire than losing a couple minutes on that engine coming in," said Mogel, who added crews will likely take a different route, if needed.
The bridge was built in 1920 and was rehabilitated in 1966. The lane closures will create a dismal driving day, but some drivers said it's necessary.
"We don't want the bridge to collapse and a big death toll and a big lawsuit," said Terrell.
PennDOT said it's working to hire a contractor, but did not provide a time-frame for when the work will begin.
The other gateway from the West Shore Bypass -- the Penn Street Bridge -- has had its own share of problems in recent years. A two-year project to rehabilitate the 101-year-old bridge was tentatively set to start in 2015, but that is contingent on the Buttonwood Street Bridge restoration project being complete.
Work on that bridge, which links West Reading and the city's northwestern neighborhoods, has been delayed numerous times. It is now set to start in December.
Work to rehabilitate the Schuylkill Avenue Bridge in northwest Reading, a gateway from the Warren Street Bypass and the city's northern suburbs, is currently underway. It's scheduled to continue until November.Images: Bingaman Street Bridge in Reading
Allentown, PA 18102