There are so many things I take for granted – like my daily commute to work. Every morning, Monday – Friday, I jump into my car, start the engine, and off I go. I follow the fastest route to my office, knowing I can be at my desk within 15 minutes of leaving home. For lots of folks in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, something as routine as their drive to work could become a challenge. The Penn Street Bridge is shaking things up.
Our iconic Penn Street Bridge, the entrance to the City of Reading, is undergoing construction. The rehab work is long overdue. It will improve the safety and function of the well-traveled span and provide a much-needed facelift. Of course, a few bumps in the road are to be expected. Starting May 8th, work on the bridge will ramp up, resulting in new traffic patterns and detours. Westbound traffic on route 422 will be prevented from taking the Penn St. exit into the city, via the bridge. Instead, commuters will exit at Lancaster Avenue and travel the Bingaman Street Bridge into Reading.
Luckily, those involved with the Bridge Project have made community outreach a priority. Neighborhood meetings, newspaper articles, and a website, ReadingBridge.net, provide information on bridge construction, traffic, and commuter services. Lots of businesses are adding bridge updates to their websites and social media posts. Some places are exploring creative ways to curb traffic flow at high volume times. No doubt, the inconvenience will be painful, but the Penn Street Bridge has faithfully served Pennsylvania’s Americana Region and is deserving of the overhaul. These facts help to put into perspective the importance of the Penn Street Bridge to Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.
- The current Penn Street Bridge opened to traffic on November 12, 1913, making it over 100 years old! It is 1,337 feet of concrete and connects Reading to West Reading.
- The Penn Street Bridge’s official name is the Penn Street Viaduct. It is a viaduct because it spans both water and land.
- Before the Schuylkill River was dammed for canal boats over 200 years ago, people would ford (cross) the river by foot or inside a vehicle with large wheels at shallow spots. They could also cross via ferry.
- Three bridges preceded the viaduct. The first bridge, built in 1818, was a wooden covered bridge. It was washed out by flood waters in 1850 and replaced with a second wooden covered bridge. In 1884, a steel bridge was built to replace the wooden span due to growing concerns that trains traveling below the wooden structure would ignite it.
- According to Penn Street Bridge statistics, over 16,104 vehicles travel the structure daily.