DRJTBC - I-95 / Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement
I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement
This project is being undertaken to alleviate recurring current and future traffic congestion and upgrade safety and traffic/operational conditions on the Scudder Falls (I-95) Bridge and adjoining highway segments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The project area extends 4.4 miles along I-95 between the PA Route 332 (Newtown-Yardley Road) Interchange (exit 49) in Pennsylvania and the Bear Tavern Road (County Route 579) Interchange (Exit 2) in New Jersey.
A separate website has been created and may be accessed at www.scudderfallsbridge.com.
On June 14, 2012, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project. The FHWA's determination validated the project's extensive environmental documentation (Environmental Assessment and Addendum to the Environmental Assessment) compiled by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission and its project management team.
"These documents and supporting documentation find there is no practicable alternative to construction of the Proposed Action, and the Proposed Action includes all practicable measures to minimize harm to natural, cultural and socioeconomic resources, which may result from the proposed project," the FHWA stated in its FONSI.
"The Environmental Assessment and Addendum to the Environmental Assessment have been independently evaluated by the FHWA and determined to discuss adequately and accurately the need, environmental issues and impacts of the proposed project and appropriate mitigation measures. They provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. The FHWA takes full responsibility for the accuracy, scope and content of the Environmental Assessment and the Addendum to the EA."
The FHWA's determination officially completed a nine-year process of evaluation, analysis, report compilation, public hearings and peer review regarding the project's compliance with the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.
All totaled, the Commission has compiled more than 1,700 pages of documentation to advance the concept plan/environmental documentation phase of project planning. Copies of the EA, Addendum to the EA, and the FONSI are available for viewing at the project website -- www.scudderfallsbridge.com.
A press release on the issuance of the FONSI may be viewed here.
With the FHWA's action in 2012, project preparations shifted to updating of project right-of-way plans, identification and execution of priority work items in anticipation of design and construction, and delivery of retrieved unearthed archaeological materials to state museums in Harrisburg and Trenton.
As of July 2014, the Commission was awaiting completion of a system-wide investment-grade (Level III) traffic and revenue study that would help guide the agency in determining whether to procure the project as a conventional design-bid-build project or as a public-private partnership (P3). The project team also was making preparations for the issuance of request for proposals (RFP) for final design services, to be issued in the coming months.
Due to these pending actions/decisions, the Commission is not projecting start and completion dates for project construction activities. The Commission will not issue a projected construction start date -- at the earliest -- until after final design is underway and a construction management team is under contract.
The multi-element $344 million project (this figure includes construction, concept plans, final design, environmental documentation and all other estimated costs) involves much more than a replacement of the current functionally obsolete four-lane Scudder Falls Bridge. The project also will include safety upgrades to the two highway interchanges at both ends of the bridge, widening of I-95 to the inside from the bridge to Route 322 in Pennsylvania, and construction of shoulders on the bridge crossing to handle breakdowns and emergencies. The two inside shoulder lanes would have the capacity to serve proposed bus/rapid transit routes. The Commission also has announced that it will install a bike/ped walkway on the bridge's upstream side to connect canal paths on both sides of the river and install noise walls where warranted.
The existing bridge was the most heavily traveled span in the Commission's 20-bridge inventory during the past 10 years. It carried an average of 58,200 cars and trucks a day in 2013. Traffic volumes frequently exceed capacity during peak commuting periods and traffic volumes are projected to rise in the coming decades.
(Construction on the bridge was completed on October 29, 1959. A press release marking the 50th anniversary of the completion date is available by clicking here.)
The congestion and safety problems on and in the vicinity of the bridge were first articulated in the 1990 Traffic Study of Trenton-Morrisville Bridge Crossings over the Delaware River. In 2000, the Commission retained a consultant to conduct the Southerly Crossings Corridor Study, which examined ways to meet the future traffic demands of the Scudder Falls Bridge and the three nearby vehicular bridge crossings between Trenton, N.J. and Morrisville, Pa. This study -- released in 2002 -- attributed the Scudder Falls Bridge's congestion and safety problems to its narrow configuration and the close proximity of adjoining interchanges with entrance ramps merging onto I-95.
The DRJTBC has worked with a consultant team of engineers, planners, environmental scientists, and other specialists to address the many challenges associated with this bridge and its approach roadways. A 561-page Environmental Assessment (EA) crafted in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration was released for public review on December 9, 2009. The EA includes environmental studies, preliminary engineering analyses, and explanations of various alternatives that were considered to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on the bridge and approach roadways.
On November 30, 2011, the Commission announced the release of 309 pages in additional environmental documentation consisting of a 65-page Addendum to EA and 244 pages in supporting appendices. The materials examine the potential impacts of the traffic diversion on local roadways and adjacent river crossings once cashless tolling is implemented at the Scudder Falls Replacement Bridge.
In August 2008, the DRJTBC provided a consolidated outline of what it considers to be the best approach for executing the project. This "Preferred Alternative" consists of the following elements for the project's four segments:
A more detailed explanation of the Commission's Preferred Alternative is available in the EA and the Addendum to the EA.
Cashless Tolling/No Toll Booths
In December 2009, the Commission voted to establish cashless tolling for the Scudder Falls Replacement Bridge. The action was taken due to the absence of federal and state transportation support for the project and because it would have been unfair to apply the financial costs solely to motorists using the Commission's seven current toll bridges. The Commission has yet to establish was the toll rates will be for the new bridge. The Commission's current base toll rate for a passenger vehicle is $1.
Tolling at the new will be "cashless" or "all-electronic cashless tolling (AECT). With AECT, tolls will be collected electronically through the E-ZPass system or video capture and billing. A conventional barrier toll plaza will not be built. AECT allows motorists to travel at prevailing speeds without having to stop to pay the toll. Non-E-ZPass-equipped vehicles passing through the cashless toll system will be subject to video capture by the electronic equipment mounted on an overhead gantry. The DRJTBC will send a bill to the customer to collect the toll. Additional administrative fees -- will be applied to customers who do not use E-ZPass. (The DRJTBC has not yet established what the tolls or fee rates will be.)
Tolling will be in the southbound direction only (entering Pennsylvania). This one-direction toll collection is consistent with all other DRJTBC toll bridges crossing from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Electronic toll equipment will be mounted on an overhead gantry structure that is on or adjacent to the new bridge on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge.
The Commission is a self-funded agency that receives no federal or state dollars or gasoline tax proceeds to supports its capital program or operations. The Commission moved to toll the Scudder Falls Bridge because it did not feel it would be reasonable or fair to expect the users of its other toll bridges to shoulder the entire financial burden of the capital improvements to the Scudder Fall Bridge, its nearby interchanges and the I-95 corridor. Over the years, users of the I-80 and I-78 bridges in particular have questioned the propriety of being charged a toll to cross those spans while I-95 motorists enjoyed a toll-free crossing supported, in part, by tolls collected at I-80 and I-78.
Tolling the Scudder Falls Bridge would ensure that its future users shoulder the cost burden of the project's significant transportation-infrastructure and safety improvements that will enhance motorist safety and provide new capacity to meet future traffic demands.