Questions/Comments

Call or email: Director of Community Affairs Jodee Inscho
Phone: 267-394-6561
Email: communityaffairs@drjtbc.org

Overview (April 2024)

The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission is preparing to rehabilitate its nearly 93-year-old Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Toll-Supported Bridge, which connects Frenchtown Borough in Hunterdon County, N.J. with the Uhlerstown section of Tinicum Township in Bucks County, PA.  The six-span riveted steel Warren-truss superstructure was last rehabilitated in 2001.

The current schedule is for project design to take place in 2024 followed by the execution of prescribed construction activities in 2025.

Major anticipated project tasks include:

  • Repairing various pieces of the bridge’s steel superstructure;
  • Cleaning and repainting of the entire steel superstructure and underlying bearings;
  • Repairing the bridge’s abutments, piers, and retaining walls;
  • Installing a programmable LED lighting system to highlight the bridge’s architectural profile along the river.

The rehabilitation also could include replacement of the bridge’s 3-foot-9-inch walkway, but a decision on this work won’t be made until the pedestrian facility is evaluated during the project’s design process.

The planned rehabilitation is intended to put the bridge in a good state of condition and extend its service life so it will not need a major rehabilitation for at least 15 years.

Current Status

On January 29, 2024, the Commission approved a contract with an engineering firm – WSP USA, Inc. of Exton, PA. – to design a rehabilitation project for the bridge.

A significant design objective for WSP will entail sequencing the rehabilitation project’s tasks and identifying the range of travel impacts that may be necessary to carry out project construction in 2025. More information on these matters won’t be available until preliminary design work reaches completion in late spring or early summer 2024.

WSP USA has conducted a detailed bridge inspection to identify deterioration or damage that would be addressed under the rehabilitation project. WSP USA also is directed to examine the bridge walkway’s condition to see if it warrants replacement or repairs.

Open house sessions are expected to be held in late spring/early summer 2024 to advise the public on details like travel impacts, sequencing of project tasks, and specific anticipated construction schedule dates.  The public will be encouraged to ask questions and provide comment on the various materials presented at those open house events.

This webpage will be updated periodically as project planning advances in coming months.  Periodic updating also will continue when the project goes into construction during 2025.

Project Information

Project Goals

  • Extend the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge’s operational service life
  • Improve safety by putting the bridge in a good state of repair
  • Mitigate major repairs and protracted lane closures for a minimum of 15 years
  • Install an architectural lighting system to enhance the bridge’s nighttime profile in Frenchtown’s central business district

All future dates are tentative estimates and are subject to change:

  • Award of Design Contract/Limited Notice to Proceed — January 29, 2024
  • Open houses Late-spring/early summer 2024
  • Final Design start — Early summer 2024
  • Design process completed — Early fall 2024
  • Project put out to bid: Fall 2024
  • Construction Contract Award — Late fall 2024
  • Construction begins — Late winter 2025
  • Final Completion — By end of 2025

Major anticipated project tasks (April 2024):

  • Repairing various pieces of the bridge’s steel superstructure;
  • Cleaning and repainting of the entire steel superstructure and underlying bearings;
  • Repairing the bridge’s abutments, piers, and retaining walls;
  • Installing a programmable LED lighting system to highlight the bridge’s architectural profile along the river.

Design Contract Work

  • Manage and administer the project, including development and implementation of public involvement and outreach.
  • Conduct an in-depth bridge inspection
    • Identify elements that require repair, strengthening or replacement
    • Collect sufficient information for the detailing of appropriate repairs, including documenting the as-built conditions (e.g. size, connection details, etc.).
  • Evaluate the bridge’s walkway and determine if it warrants replacement.
  • Perform bridge load ratings followed by recommendations for strengthening, if necessary.
  • Evaluate the paint system’s existing condition and provide paintcoating recommendation for the bridge’s preservation.
  • After the bridge inspection process, design engineers will map the course of action to address identified issues with the bridge and plan out the other major tasks that the Commission has budgeted to be conducted during the project.
  • Provide final bridge load ratings based on the post rehabilitation, as-built conditions of the bridge.
  • Evaluate the useful life expectancy of the steel grid deck.
  • Sequencing the project’s tasks in a manner that mitigates impacts to motorists, pedestrians, and the bridge’s two host communities.  These materials will be presented to the public at open houses where people can ask questions and provide comment.
  • Develop drawings, list structural details, compile construction specifications and map traffic-control plans.
  • Develop a lighting design for replacing the bridge’s roadway and sidewalk lighting.  Design will include placements and intensity of lighting.
  • Develop final plans, specifications and costs.
  • Provide post-design services.

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.

Ownership

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.

More Info

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.

Year constructed/opened: 1931

Engineer of design: Edwin W. Denzler, later chief engineer of DRJTBC

Builder: F.H. Clement & Co. of Bethlehem, PA.

Cost of 1931 construction: $91,510.87

Structure type: Riveted steel Warren truss

Total length: 950 feet, 10 inchess (last two spans on each side are 156 feet long and two middle spans are 152 feet long)

Width: 18 feet, 6 inches (outside truss)

Number of  traffic lanes:

  • PA-bound – 1
  • NJ-bound – 1

Total clear roadway width: 16 feet, 6 inches

Walkway width: 3 feet, 9 inches

Load posting: 15 tons

Vertical clearance on structure: 12-feet, 6 inches

Last Rehabilitation: 2001

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 maintainence 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

Frenchtown Bridge with music — Aeris Firma YouTube post — 2017  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqMKqWj6rrA

Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge-westbound — Road Explorer YouTube post — March 21, 2020 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqTnfhzEfbA

Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge-eastbound — Road Explorer YouTube post — March 21, 2020 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtOGVv8kvBQ

Bridgehunter.com
https://bridgehunter.com/bridge/pa-bucks-uhlerstown-frenchtown-bridge

Historicbridges.org
https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=newjersey/frenchtown/

Bomboy, R. Scott Wooden Treasures; The Story of Bucks County’s Covered Bridges, Bridgetown Communications, 2022 (Print) 105-107

Dale, Frank T. Bridges over the Delaware River: A History of Crossings. Rutgers University Press, 2003 (Print), 47-51

Garlipp, Richard J. Jr. New Jersey’s Covered Bridges, Arcadia Publishin, 2014 (Print) 81-84

Richman, Steven M. The Bridges of New Jersey: Portraits of Garden State Crossings. Rutgers University Press 2005 (Print) 80-83

Shafer, Mary A. Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955 Word Forge Books 2005 (Print) 369

Robert Rando & Caroline Scott  Frenchtown, New Jersey: History Along the River. The History Press, 2015 (Print) 33, 76-77, 102

The Commission has researched the history of the prior wooden covered bridge that serviced this location from late 1843 to late 1931.  The historical account can be accessed HERE.

Bridge Project Inquiry Form

The following form may be used for online inquiries for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission’s Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Toll-Supported Bridge Rehabilitation Project. Asterisk items are mandatory. Boxes marked are optional.