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The Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Toll-Supported Bridge connects Bridge Street/NJ Route 12 in Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, N.J. with River Road/PA Route 32 in the Uhlerstown section of Tinicum Township, Bucks County, PA.

The bridge consists of 534 tons of steel. It is 950 feet, 10 inches long. The trusses are 19-feet, 6-inchess wide center to center.  The structure’s total width, including the cantilevered walkway, is 24-feet, 1-inch. (Note: The walkway’s clear walkable width is 3 feet, 9 inches.)

The supporting substructure consists of rubble stone-faced masonry built in 1842 and 1843 to support a prior wooden-covered private toll bridge that opened December 30, 1843.  Abutments are on spread footings. Piers are stone-filled on submerged timber foundations.  Reinforced pier caps were installed as part of the bridge’s 1931 construction project.  All bridge seats and the abutment backwalls are of reinforced concrete.

The bridge now has a 15-ton weight limit, a 12-foot, 6-inch height restriction, and a 15 MPH speed limit.  It carried an average of 4,200 vehicles per day in 2023. (The Bridge Commission’s average annual daily traffic counts can be viewed here: https://www.drjtbc.org/bridge-info/traffic-count/.)

Design and Construction

The current six-span riveted-steel Warren through-truss Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge is the Commission’s ninth oldest superstructure and the agency’s northernmost six-span truss bridge. It opened to traffic on October 10, 1931, 28 years to the day that flood waters washed away two spans of a prior six-span wooden-covered bridge at this location.

The eight older superstructures in the Commission system are: Calhoun Street (1884), Northampton Street (1895-96), Riegelsville (April 1904), New Hope-Lambertville (July 1904), Riverton-Belvidere (September 1904), Washington Crossing (April 1905), Centre Bridge-Stockton (July 1927), and Lower Trenton (1928-29).

The bridge’s steel superstructure rests on abutments and piers originally are believed to have been constructed in 1842-43. The current steel bridge’s narrow width is probably attributable to the limited length of the underlying mid-19th-century piers and abutments.

The current steel truss superstructure was designed by Edwin W. Denzler, who later became the Commission’s chief engineer. It is one of five Commission truss bridges Denzler designed.  The others are at Centre Bridge-Stockton, Lower Trenton, Upper Black Eddy-Milford, and Easton-Phillipsburg (Route 22), which was originally called the Bushkill Street Bridge.

The Uhlerstown-Frenchtown bridge was constructed by the former F.H. Clement & Co. of Bethlehem, PA.  The Great Depression-era project cost was $91,510.87.  The construction costs were covered by joint equal shares of tax revenues from the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The former Joint Commission for Elmination of Toll Bridges — Pennsylvania-New Jersey approved the construction contract Feb. 13, 1931. Published accounts from the time indicate that a prior bridge consisting of four covered wooden spans and two steel-truss spans was shutdown on May 6 for construction of the new six-span bridge. The published accounts say the former Lehigh Structural Steel Co. of Allentown, PA. performed the steel-erection work for F.H. Clement.

The subsequent Oct. 10, 1931 bridge opening ceremony included speeches, a parade, and music. W. Egbert Thomas, a Milford resident and Joint Commission member, served as master of ceremonies.


At that time of its 1931 construction, the river crossing was owned jointly by New Jersey and Pennsylvania but the bridge’s operation and maintenance was the responsibility of a former agency called – the Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges — Pennsylvania-New Jersey. This former agency was eliminated and replaced by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) Dec. 28, 1934. The DRJTBC then assumed the former Joint Commission’s tax-supported management responsibilities for the bridge.

This arrangement of joint-states-ownership and DRJTBC control with state tax revenues continued until July 1, 1987, when ownership was conveyed outright to the DRJTBC. Under changes the two states and the federal government made to the DRJTBC’s Compact between 1984 and 1987, the DRJTBC now operates, maintains, and polices the bridge using a share of the tolls it annually collects at the agency’s eight toll bridges. Hence, the bridge’s full name today is the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Toll-Supported Bridge.

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The bridge originally had wooden roadway and walkway surfaces. In 1949, the bridge was outfitted with a 5-inch open-grate steel floor and a 2-inch concrete-filled steel-grid walkway. The open-grate steel roadway floor and concrete-filled walkway were replaced in 2001.

The bridge survived relatively unscathed during the Delaware River’s record-setting 1955 flood. The bridge’s river cresting was recorded at elevation 127.79 feet 2 a.m. August 20, 1955.  The height was 27 feet above the location’s normal low river level. The flooding forced the bridge out of service August 19 to August 22. Clean up and repairs of any damage was performed by Commission maintenance personnel.

A frame building on the bridge’s New Jersey serves as a shelter for bridge monitors, Commission security personnel whose primary function is to protect the facility from oversized vehicles. The Pennsylvania side has insufficient space for a bridge monitor shelter. Like other Commission bridges, the facility also is equipped with a variety of security cameras.

The bridge’s last rehabilitation was in 2001. The project entailed floor system replacement, new guide rail installation, new roadway lighting installation, paint removal, and repainting of the trusses and other structural steel components.  The work was intended to put the structure in a state of condition allowing it to avoid major repairs and travel impacts for at least 15 years.

Another rehabilitation is expected to be undertaken at the bridge in 2025. Design for this project is taking place in 2024.

Last Painted: 2001

Flood Info (river reading levels in feet above mean sea level):

  • Normal: 100.8 feet
  • Warning: 106 feet
  • Flood: 116.8
  • Top of pier: 123.11

River Crossing Ownership

  • Alexandria Delaware Bridge Co. (wooden covered bridge and post-1903 flood wooden covered bridge with two 1905 steel truss replacement spans) – 1844-1929
  • New Jersey and Pennsylvania (owned jointly); managed and maintained with annual tax subsidies by former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges — Pennsylvania-New Jersey — June 28, 1929 to December 28, 1934
    • Current steel bridge designed by Edwin W. Denzler
    • Constructed with equal shares of state tax proceeds in 1931
    • Opened Oct. 10, 1931
  • New Jersey and Pennsylvania (owned jointly); managed and maintained with annual tax subsidies by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission December 28, 1934 to June 30, 1987
    • States’ total joint ownership – 58 years
  • Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission — July 1, 1987 to present (cost of operation and maintenance supported by a shares of toll proceeds collected at the Commission’s eight toll bridges)
    • DRJTBC affiliated (tax-supported and toll-supported) – 89 years
    • DRJTBC owned (toll-supported – 37 years
  • River crossing financing history
    • Private tolled crossing – 85 years
    • Public non-tolled crossing – 95 years

History of the first bridge at Uhlerstown-Frenchtown

A Ferry Preceded a Bridge
As was the case at other covered bridge locations up and down the Delaware River, a series of ferries predated the first bridge to be constructed between the locales now referred to as Uhlerstown, PA. and Frenchtown, N.J.

An early colonial ferry at this river point was called the London Ferry.  A succession of ferry owner/operators then followed: Calvin, Lowery. Sherrerd, Erwin, and Prevost.

Agitation for replacing the inherently unreliable ferry service with a bridge apparently began around 1840. At this time, the small hamlet on the Pennsylvania side of the river was called Mexico. The relatively larger village on the river’s New Jersey side was referred to as Frenchtown, but it was relegated to being a small section of sprawling Alexandria Township at that time.

In the scheme of things, this location was a late bridge-building entrant. Ten other locations up and down the river already had bridges linking New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These bridges were at:

  • Trenton, N.J. and Morrisville, PA.
  • Easton, PA. and Greenwich Township, N.J. (Phillipsburg was incorporated out of Greenwich in 1851);
  • Solebury, PA. (Centre Bridge) and Delaware Township, N.J. (Stockton was incorporated out of Delaware in 1898);
  • New Hope, PA. and Amwell Township, N.J. (Lambertville was incorporated as a town in 1846);
  • Milford, PA. and Montague, N.J.;
  • Upper Makefield, PA. (Taylorsville) and Hopewell Township, N.J. (Bernardsville);
  • Dingman Township, PA. and Sandyston Township, N.J.;
  • Durham Township (Riegelsville was incorporated out of Durham in 1916) and Pohatcong Township, N.J;
  • Lower Mount Bethel, PA. and Oxford, N.J. (Belvidere was incorporated out of Oxford in 1845)
  • Lower Makefield, PA. (Yardleyville) and Ewing, N.J. (Yardley was incorporated out of Lower Makefield in 1896)

Additionally, an effort was already underway for a bridge company a short distance upriver between the Upper Black Eddy section of then Nockamixon Township, Pa. and the Milford section of Alexandria Township, N.J.  (Bridgeton Township was incorporated out of Nockamixon Township in 1890.   Milford was incorporated out of Holland Township in 1911; Holland originally separated from Alexandria Township in 1874, later remerging in 1876, and then permanently incorporating as a separate township in 1878.) The resulting bridge at the Upper Black Eddy-Milford location opened in 1842, owned and operated by the Milford (NJ) Delaware Bridge Company.

Enter the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Co.

Petitions for creating a bridge company at the Frenchtown location were presented to the New Jersey legislature in January 1841. Frenchtown was growing and serious efforts were underway to one day build a railroad through the hamlet to connect Trenton to the south with Belvidere to the north. Meanwhile, a canal on the river’s Pennsylvania side had been in operation since 1832.

The process for building bridges in the 1800s was generally a localized affair involving business owners, farmers, and other land holders. These individuals banded together to seek legislative charters from each state to establish a bridge company. The charters would allow the company’s incorporators to issue stock shares for purposes of raising capital to build and operate a bridge. The company then charged tolls for crossings of individuals, animal-power vehicles, and livestock. Once free of debts, the bridge company could then use toll profits to award investors with annual or semi-annual stockholder dividends.

The bridge company name for the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown location became the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company. (Note: The State of New Jersey in 1812 enacted a law to create an Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company for purposes of building a bridge near the confluence of the Delaware and Musconetcong rivers in what is now Holland Township. [Holland Township was then part of Alexandria Township]. This envisioned bridge was to be constructed at the former Pursell’s Ferry/Romig’s Ferry location, but the effort failed, and a bridge was never built. This enabled the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Co. corporate name to be used for the Frenchtown location in the 1841 legislation.)

New Jersey became the first of the two states to enact a law incorporating an Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company charged with the mission of building and operating a bridge at the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown location. Governor William Pennington signed this measure into law March 5, 1841.  The New Jersey law appointed Hugh Capner; William Case, Sr.; Lewis M. Prevost; Cornelius Huff; and William L. King to sell the company’s stock.

Pennsylvania enacted a concurring law on May 8, 1841.  The Pennsylvania law authorized the following individuals to sell bridge company stock shares in that state:  Joseph M. Cowell, John M. Pursel, George Wyker, Henry S. Stover, Adam Barnets, and N.D. Williams. This was one of three bridge companies involving Henry Stover, a Bucks Co. PA. miller. The other Stover-affiliated bridge concerns were the Milford Delaware Bridge Company (N.J.), which was chartered by New Jersey in 1836 and Pennsylvania in 1839; and the Point Pleasant Delaware Bridge Company, which the two states both authorized in 1853.

The state laws for the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company set $5 as the initial payment price for a $50 share of the bridge company’ stock. The laws authorized the assigned stock-issuing commissioners to form a board of managers and designate a company president once $10,000 worth of shares were sold.  The state laws further set maximum toll rates that the company could charge for crossings of pedestrians, livestock, and animal-powered vehicles. Toll rates ultimately were set by the bridge company itself.

The bridge company charter also had the following provision:

“That all persons going to or returning from funerals; persons going to or returning from religious meetings or church; children going to, or returning from school, shall pass free of toll.”

It’s unclear when precisely the $10,000 stock-issuance threshold was eclipsed, but James P. Snell’s History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (published in 1881) says the company’s first stockholder meeting was April 22, 1842.  Hugh Capner was elected as the company’s first president on July 22, 1842 and Stover, Prevost, John Williams, and Joseph A. Holden were appointed as the bridge building committee. Capner’s interest in the bridge and the bridge company is unclear, since he was a farmer in Flemington, N.J. He later gained a familial connecttion with Henry Stover; Capner’s daughter, Mary, married Stover’s son, Jacob, in 1854.  Ironically, perhaps, Jacob Stover later became the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company’s president.  According to William Watts Hart Davis’s History of Bucks County, PA., Jacob Stover served as the bridge company president for 20 years.

Bridge Opens

Little is known about the first bridge’s operation. However, a June 29, 1929 Trenton Evening Times article provides some valuable information:

The Frenchtown-Uhlerstown bridge was ordered by contract in 1841.  The contract fell through, and it was not until 1842 that the erection of this bridge was started.  On Dec. 30 1843, the bridge was opened and tolls were collected for the first time…The first toll collector was paid $2 a week, the officers of the (bridge) company believing it to be a fair wage at that time. He worked for five weeks and an advertisement was inserted in a newspaper asking for applicants.  Twelve men applied and it was finally agreed by the lowest bidder to pay a wage of $36 a year.

The wooden-covered bridge at Uhlerstown-Frenchtown was a “Town type” lattice-truss structure. This internal truss design for covered bridges had been patented in 1820 by American architect and civil engineer Ithiel Town of Connecticut. His lattice design could be used for barns, bridges, and many other applications.  It could be constructed easily by unskilled laborers from readily available wood.  Mr. Town charged builders $1 per foot to use his design.  If an individual was found to have used Town’s patented design without paying, the charge was $2 per foot. Town reportedly died a wealthy man in 1844. He was 59 years old.

It’s unclear who or what firm constructed the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company’s wooden bridge. One possibility is Salon Chapin, an Easton, PA. contractor who built or repaired other private toll bridges operating along the river in the mid-19th century.

Judging from the surviving piers and abutments, the wooden bridge at Uhlerstown-Frenchtown must have been a narrow structure. Photographs show the wooden bridge’s width did not entirely cover the tops of the piers. It also lacked a separate walkway.

Additional Supports?

One unique bridge feature were iron rods that extended diagonally between the wooden superstructure’s sides and out to the either nose or heel of the supporting piers.  It’s unclear if these were installed from the outset of the bridge’s construction, were added later, or replaced original wooden diagonal supports. It’s possible these devices once supported troughs that extended off the windows at pier locations. Such troughs might have facilitated the shoveling of animal dung off the bridge’s interior deck and into the river.

The wooden bridge was one of 16 such structures that opened along the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania from 1806 to 1869. Structurally and operationally, the Frenchtown wooden bridge was less traveled and less noteworthy than earlier –and larger — wooden bridges at Trenton, Easton, and New Hope. Nonetheless, Frenchtown’s industrial-age-era growth in the late 19th century probably was enhanced by its bridge to Pennsylvania.

In 1845 and 1846, the two states authorized a change in the 1841 law establishing the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company. The change repealed the provision regarding free travel to a religious meeting or church and replaced that language as follows:

Persons going to or returning from religious meeting or church upon the christian sabbath, or the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, shall be allowed to pass the said bridge free of toll, and upon that day only.

In his book, Bridges over the Delaware River; A History of Crossings, the late historian Frank T. Dale wrote that the wooden bridge at Frenchtown sustained damage in an 1862 river flood and repairs were made. The Commission has been unable to confirm Dale’s representations.

Frenchtown was incorporated as a borough separate and apart from Alexandria Township in 1867. By then, Frenchtown was a well-established stop along the Belvidere Delaware Railroad (Bel-Del RR). In four years, the railroad became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad under a 999-year-lease. On the bridge’s Pennsylvania side, the name Uhlertown or Uhlerstown was coming into increased use over Mexico, owing to the village’s commercial exploits of Michael Uhler. The designation gained traction with the designation of the Uhlerstown post office and Uhler as postmaster in 1871

Apparently profitable
Brief news items published in area newspapers during the 1870s and 1880s indicate the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company’s river crossing attracted enough use to be profitable.  The company often issued semi-annual dividends to its stockholders, including a 12-percent dividend for one six-month period.

However, a news brief in the August 25, 1875 edition of the Lambertville Record took issue with the bridge company’s maintenance activities:

The piers of the Delaware bridge at Frenchtown, the Press says, are in a decidedly dilapidated condition, and if the high water continues the bridge will be badly damaged. Repairs should have been made when the water was low and the weather pleasant.

1903 Pumpkin Flood Destroys Two Spans.

The bridge continued in service until October 10, 1903, when the two bridge spans nearest to the New Jersey riverbank were destroyed by the Delaware River’s fabled Pumpkin Flood — so named because abundant gourds and squash were swept into the raging waters upstream.

Post-flood photographs show a mound of wooden timbers haphazardly piled on the upstream face of a New Jersey-side pier that previously supported the two missing bridge spans.  It’s possible these timbers came from other wooden bridges that had been destroyed upstream.  The flood washed away two of the Riegelsville Bridge’s three spans and one of the three spans at Milford.

A “naphtha and steam” ferry service for pedestrians reportedly operated initially after the bridge was taken out of service. This watercraft apparently was replaced by a flat-bottomed steel-cable ferry craft capable of carrying pedestrians, horses, livestock, and wagons.

Two Short-Lived Steel Replacement Spans

News articles from the time show the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company’s directors moved quickly to advertise for a contractor to replace the two missing wooden bridge spans. It is unclear, however, when the bridge was put back into service and what contractor did the work. What is known is that the two replacement spans were steel double-intersecting Warren through-truss structures with higher clearances than the surviving four wooden bridge spans from 1843. According to Frank Dale, “This work took almost a year to complete and cost about $10,000.” The Commission has been unsuccessful in determining who manufactured the two steel replacement spans. An old Commission engineering field book referred to the steel replacement spans as “U.S. Truss” and “D.S. Truss.” These notations apparently were to upstream truss and downstream truss, and not a manufacturer.

A Commission information book says the replacement spans were built in 1905. However, a steel plaque that had been installed atop the first truss’s portal on the New Jersey side says “1904.” That rusty plaque with a decorative vine border is now housed at the Stover Mill Gallery, a former water-power gristmill upstream in Tinicum, PA. The plaque identifies James Madison Porter III as the Alexander Delaware Bridge Company’s engineer, so it’s likely he designed the two replacement spans.  The plaque also lists the company’s president and directors at that time.  Two names — Albert P. Williams and John J. Stover — stand out as likely descendants of individuals named in the 1841 legislation authorizing the bridge company’s incorporation.

A New Challenge: Motorized Vehicles
After getting its bridge crossing back into operation, a new challenge arose for the bridge company: rising automobile traffic. It’s likely that an occasional motor-powered car crossed the wooden bridge before the 1903 flood.  But that trickle of motor vehicles turned to a virtual open faucet a decade later as mass-produced combustion-engine-powered cars like the Ford Model-T became an increasingly prevalent American family possession.

With traffic and automobile ownership rising, people up and down the river began agitating for public takeovers of the loose-knit coterie of private toll bridge companies operating along the river. Around 1910, the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania established three-member panels to examine the matter.  These panels, with the assistance of engineers from each state, eventually constructed a listing of the private toll bridges and the estimated value of each crossing.

Freeing the Bridge
In 1916, a burgeoning free bridge movement compelled the two states to establish a joint body – the former Joint Commission for Elimination of Toll Bridges – Pennsylvania-New Jersey – to help the states purchase the private toll bridges and free them of tolls. This “Joint Commission” never owned any of the bridges that eventually were purchased. The reason is that tax proceeds from each state were used to make the purchases. So, in all instances, the states owned the purchased properties and assets. (Note: The Joint Commission was disbanded on December 28, 1934 and immediately replaced by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which the state’s had established earlier that month with the expressed mission of building newer, larger, and higher highway bridges.)

The Joint Commission made its first private toll bridge purchase at Lower Trenton in 1918. For a variety of reasons including available funds, prioritization of other bridges purchases, and a bridge company’s willingness to sell, it took until 1929 before the Joint Commission succeeded in making the part-wood-and-part-steel bridge at Uhlerstown-Frenchtown a toll-free crossing.

Joint Commission meeting minutes indicate the Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company sent a letter on April 26, 1928 expressing the company’s acceptance of a $45,000 price offer for the bridge. It subsequently took more than a year before land titles and other issues could be sorted out so an actual sale could be consummated.

On June 18, 1929, the aging bridge crossing’s four wooden spans and two steel replacement spans were sold to the states during a real estate closing at the Doylestown, PA. courthouse. The sale of the private toll bridge upstream at Milford took place the same day, immediately prior to the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown closing.

Bridge Sale Attendees

The attendees for the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown bridge sale were as follows:

  • Pennsylvania — C.P. Adams, deputy attorney general, and Oscar O. Bean, search attorney.
  • New Jersey — Theodore Backes, assistant attorney general, and C.W. Weygand, search attorney.
  • Alexandria Delaware Bridge Co. — Charles A. Manners, president; F.H. Decker, secretary and treasurer; and bridge company directors Samuel O. Eddy and Edward W. Bloom.
  • Joint Commission — Louis Focht, engineer and superintendent; William H. Wilson, division engineer; and commissioners Fred R. Parker of New Jersey and Edward J. Pierson of Pennsylvania.
  • Attorney Harry J. Abel of Frenchtown served as the legal representative for the bridge companies involved in the day’s property closings.

The Frenchtown bridge sale was completed with Addams of Pennsylvania and Backes of New Jersey each providing $22,500 checks to the bridge company’s officers. Focht immediately made a phone call to discontinue toll collections at the bridge. One utility-line arrangement was continued as part of the Frenchtown bridge sale: a $12-per-year lease agreement with the former Stover Telephone Co. for a telephone wire to cross the bridge.

Unlike prior bridge purchases, Joint Commission meeting minutes did not provide information on the bridge’s last toll taker. Through news clippings, two individuals were identified as prior toll collectors: George Slack (1880), J.C. Butler or Josiah Butler (early 1900s). The first individuals hired to work as watchmen at the newly freed bridge crossing were James Stull of Frenchtown (daytime) and Melvin McIntyre of Uhlerstown (nights).

Old Toll Rates

Prior to the bridge’s acquisition by the two states, tolls had been collected at the bridge for 85 years, 5 months, and 29 days. The June 29, 1929 Trenton Evening Times article on the bridge’s sale gave the last known account of the Frenchtown bridge’s final toll schedule:

“An old sign at the approach of the Alexandria-Delaware bridge at Frenchtown that has been a familiar sight for many years will now pass out of existence.  It read as follows under the toll ruling: “Pedestrian, one cent; monthly rate, 25 cents in advance; pedestrian with wheelbarrow, 4 cents; bicycle, 2 cents; single horse and wagon, 10 cents; two horses and wagon, 15 cents; three horses and wagon, 20 cents; four horses and wagon, 25 cents; automobile one seat, 15 cents; automobile two seats, 20 cents; automobile three seats, 25 cents; auto truck, under two tons, 20 cents; auto truck 2 to 3 tons, 25 cents; auto truck, 3 to 4 tons, 30 cents; motorcycle, 10 cents; cattle, per head, 5 cents; cow with one calf, 5 cents; horse and rider, 7 cents; man leading calf, 4 cents.”

A “community celebration” was held at the Warford House hotel in Frenchtown once all the deeds and checks were exchanged for the sales of bridges at Frenchtown and Milford. The event included fireworks and a parade of automobiles and floats.  The Trenton Evening Times article said the procession of cars involved 400 vehicles.  It began in Frenchtown and proceeded on the river’s New Jersey side up to Milford. It then crossed the bridge into Pennsylvania and traveled down that side to Frenchtown via the bridge at that location.

A New Bridge Is Needed
The cause for celebration apparently was short-lived for the Joint Commission, which was responsible for operating and maintaining the newly acquired bridge. Within months, engineers discovered the Frenchtown bridge had the earmarks of a pig-in-a-poke purchase.

In March 1930, the Joint Commission reported that the bridge needed repairs, the former toll-taker’s house needed remodeling, and the bridge’s approaches needed to be rebuilt.  Additionally, one of the bridge’s piers was “badly canted,” prompting the Commission to hire a diver who could examine the pier’s underwater condition that summer.

Joint Commission’s engineers completed a full inspection of the bridge, its approaches, and the former toll house on the New Jersey side in September 1930. Joint Commission meeting minutes summarize the inspection of the bridge’s four 1843 wooden-covered spans as follows:

“A thorough examination of this bridge reveals the fact that the four timber spans are in bad condition and should be corrected or rebuilt at once. It was first thought repairs could be made economically, but conditions are so serious that a large outlay would be involved. The top chords are badly buckled, owing to overstress; in places sections of the bottom chords are cracked, the corbels under the trusses and over the abutments are decayed and cracked, resulting in incipient breaks in the lower cords at the ends of the spans. During the summer the repair force patched one of the top cords where some new cracks had developed before inspections had been completed.”

The minutes were slightly less dire about the two steel truss spans on the New Jersey, but their weight capacity was determined to be only seven tons. The Joint Commission estimated it would cost up to $85,000 to repair the wooden spans with limited improvements in their load ratings. So, the Commissioners decided to draw up plans to replace the four 1843 wooden spans while repairing and strengthening the two 1904-05 steel spans. The work was put out to bid. Ten bids, ranging in price from $95,244 to $131,920, were received. Plans were scuttled, however, when Commissioners realized that a full bridge replacement might be a more cost-effective approach. So, a new effort was launched to seek bids to construct an entirely new steel-truss bridge.

At a special meeting in Philadelphia on Feb. 13, 1931, the commissioners opened the bids. In almost every instance, the cost of a full-replacement project turned out to be less than what it would cost to replace the four wooden spans and strengthen the two steel ones.

The Joint Commission proceeded to approve low-bidder F.H. Clement & Co. of Bethlehem’s proposal to install six new steel spans, a project that ended up costing slightly more than $91,000. After more than 88 years of service, the four surviving wooden covered spans of the former Alexandria Delaware Bridge Company’s 1843 bridge were shut down for replacement on May 6 1931. The wooden remains were removed from the riverscape and carted away to points unknown as “second-hand lumber.”  Joint Commission meeting minutes in 1932 indicate that $1,152.26 was received from the sale of wood and placed in the former agency’s treasury.

The Commission strives for accuracy.  If you have a correction or additional information on this bridge history account, please contact Dep. Exec. Dir. of Communications Joe Donnelly at jdonnelly@drjtbc.org.

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