The first bridge at this site also was the victim of flooding. Designed by Lewis Wernwag, a world-famous bridge-building pioneer of his age, the original crossing was “carried away and damaged” by flooding on January 8, 1841. Wernwag’s bridge was completed on September 12, 1814 – slightly more than eight years after the opening of the first bridge across the Delaware River between Trenton and Morrisville, Pa. on January 30, 1806.
The second New Hope-Lambertville Bridge – the one destroyed in the 1903 flood – was built in 1842, according to Bridges of New Jersey by Steven M. Richman.
Its replacement – the six-span steel, pin-connected Pratt truss bridge that stands to this day – was constructed in 1904 at a cost of $63,818.81. Interestingly, that cost was less than the $67,936.37 it reportedly cost to build Wernwag’s original span 90 years earlier.
The current bridge operated as a toll span for roughly its first 15 years. It was purchased and freed of tolls on December 31, 1919 by the Joint Commission for the Acquisition of Toll Bridges over the Delaware River between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey – the predecessor agency to the current Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which was created in 1934 and which owns and operates the bridge today.
The current steel-truss bridge has its own unique history, having undergone remodeling over the years. Its No. 2 Span suffered considerable damage during the flood of August 19, 1955, forcing its closure to all but emergency vehicles on August 20. The bridge was repaired within five weeks and reopened to traffic on September 22, 1955.
Today, the bridge’s official name is the New Hope-Lambertville Toll-Supported Bridge. The term “toll-supported” refers to the fact that the Commission pays for its operating, maintenance and security costs using revenues generated by the agency’s seven toll bridges that cross the Delaware between Pennsylvania and New Jersey from Trenton/Morrisville to the New Jersey/New York state line.
The bridge has several unique characteristics.
- It is the only steel Pratt truss bridge owned and operated by the DRJTBC. The Commission’s Calhoun Street Toll-Supported Bridge between Trenton, N.J. and Morrisville, Pa., also is a Pratt-style bridge, but it is made of iron.
- Finally, more pedestrians use the bridge than any other span along the entire length of the Delaware River. The bridge’s walkway — which was widened in 2004 — can be especially crowded on pleasant summer evenings, with tourists, restaurant goers, antique hunters, and local residents crossing between the two riverside communities. The Commission has recorded as many as 14,000 pedestrian crossings on the bridge on a single weekend day. No other bridge in the DRJTBC system — or elsewhere along the Delaware River, for that matter — comes close to handling such foot-traffic volumes.
- The walkway is cantilevered off the bridge’s downstream side. It consists of fiberglass panels, the only walkway of its type in the DRJTBC system. The walkway also was widened from six feet to eight feet as part of the bridge’s 2004 rehabilitation project.
- The bridge has a sewer line attached to its upstream side. The forced sewer main is owned by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority and carries sewage from New Hope across the river to Lambertville and the treatment plant operated by the Lambertville Municipal Utilities Authority. The pumps for the sewer main are housed in the basement of the brick building immediately adjacent to the bridge’s Pennsylvania abutment.
The bridge was the subject of a two-page feature in INC. magazine’s December 2009/January 2010 edition. The feautre may be accessed online at the following link: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091201/the-business-of-the-bridge.html..
Area residents will remember that the bridge underwent an extensive rehabilitation in 2004. The work included replacement of the flooring systems, sidewalk and handrails; miscellaneous steel repairs; cleaning and painting; and various safety and lighting improvements. The total program cost was $7.7 million, an amount that included preliminary design, public involvement, final design, construction, oversight and a free shuttle service that operated on days when the bridge was closed to traffic.
The Commission’s rehabilitation of the bridge was named the “2004 Project of the Year” by the Delaware Valley Section of the American Society of Highway Engineers. This award, in large part, was a recognition of the many steps taken by the Commission to minimize the impact of the renovation on the local communities of New Hope and Lambertville, popular tourist destinations.
During the rehabilitation period, the bridge was reopened on weekends to minimize the economic impact of the bridge work. The Commission also provided complimentary shuttle bus service to the public on weekdays, supplying free transportation to individuals between the New Hope and Lambertville sides of the Delaware River.
An innovative incentive/disincentive program rewarded or penalized the contractor for the early or late completion of the project. As a result, the bridge re-opened a week ahead of schedule.