Happy Day!

It was a ju­bil­ant time for mo­tor­ists last week when com­pleted re­pairs to the Holme Av­en­ue bridge ended months of de­tours and ag­grav­a­tion.

Stop cuss­ing and keep driv­ing! You can now get there from here.

Holme Av­en­ue no longer is closed between Con­vent Av­en­ue and Ar­thur Street, so the more than 22,000 mo­tor­ists who have been mut­ter­ing about de­tours every day since June can stop grit­ting their teeth and sail through.

The road­way’s bridge over Con­rail tracks west of Con­vent had been closed for re­pairs, but it re­opened to traffic dur­ing the af­ter­noon of Oct. 25 — months earli­er than ex­pec­ted. The ini­tial com­ple­tion pro­jec­tion was well in­to 2012.

The ser­i­ous­ness of the old bridge’s struc­tur­al woes ac­tu­ally helped the work to ac­cel­er­ate, said Gene Blaum, a spokes­man for the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Trans­port­a­tion.

If a bridge can be re­paired while a lane of traffic is open, that’s how a PennDOT con­tract­or will do the job, Blaum ex­plained. However, the Holme Av­en­ue bridge was in such sad shape that it was in danger of col­lapse. It had to be com­pletely — and sud­denly — closed to all traffic in late June.

What be­came mo­tor­ists’ daily hassle since then was a boon of sorts to the con­tract­or, Buckley & Com­pany Inc., whose crews could work faster without the in­ter­fer­ence of traffic, Blaum said. 

Last week, neigh­bors on Holme Av­en­ue’s east­bound side brought out a bottle of cham­pagne to toast the Buckley crew as well as the bridge’s com­ple­tion.

“I doubt these guys made any money on this job,” said Bob Hu­bler, who lives just a few houses from the bridge. “They worked some twelve-hour days. That’s a lot of over­time.”

Hu­bler ad­ded that neigh­bor­hood youths had van­dal­ized con­struc­tion vehicles that were parked overnight near the bridge. Someone stole power tools, too, he said.

The con­tract­or worked six days a week, and some­times sev­en, to get the bridge ready for traffic, Blaum said in a phone in­ter­view. Buckley, based at 34th and Moore streets, has a $5.8 mil­lion con­tract for the work.

Hu­bler and his wife Janet, as well as Lisa and Brid­get Capanna and neigh­bors Loida Moreno and Jonath­an Still­field, 11, were out­side their homes be­fore 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 to cheer for Buckley’s crews. They got the same right back from the com­pany’s own­er, Bob Buckley, who said he couldn’t have asked for bet­ter co­oper­a­tion from res­id­ents.

Not every neigh­bor was as pa­tient with the in­con­veni­ence, noise and dirt that ac­com­pan­ied the work, Hu­bler said, but he ad­ded that Buckley em­ploy­ees were as ac­com­mod­at­ing to neigh­bors as they could be. Buckley put in new side­walks, fixed drive­ways and even pur­chased car washes for res­id­ents whose vehicles were dirtied as the pro­ject pro­gressed, Hu­bler ex­plained.

On the flip side, neigh­bor­hood kids took cold drinks to work­ers dur­ing the sum­mer and neigh­bors even hos­ted a couple of bar­be­cues for the crews, Hu­bler said.

While Holme Av­en­ue was closed, struc­tur­al prob­lems were spot­ted on an ad­ja­cent bridge that takes the street over the small Wood Run, and they were re­paired too, Blaum said.

Al­though neigh­bors wel­comed the road’s re­open­ing last week, they saw something they could do without — speed­ing. The re­turn of vehicles cruis­ing the half mile or so from Holme Circle to Wil­lits Road was pretty much im­me­di­ate.

Stand on the Holme Av­en­ue side­walk and radar isn’t ne­ces­sary to es­tim­ate the speeds of autos ra­cing by. Neigh­bors were resigned, ready and just a bit sar­don­ic about it. When the de­tour signs and traffic cones were re­moved, they showed Buckley’s crew a homemade black-and-white-checked sign that read, “Wel­come to our speed­way.” •• 

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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