3rd Street Bridge: The Current Options

Dec 13, 2011 by

In the past couple of months, information has come forward that has shifted the possibilities for the 3rd Street Bridge and Dam. It is very clear that something must be done, and soon; the dam was declared unsafe in 1980 by the Army Corps of Engineers, and has been closed to traffic since 1996. For the public and especially those living downstream, it must be dealt with as soon as possible.

Up until recently, it was believed that PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) required that the dam be rebuilt and the road be restored and opened to automotive traffic. Recent interactions with PennDOT have revealed that this is not the case, and in fact, Media Borough, the “project sponsor,” may declare whatever goals they see fit, as long as the safety issues with the bridge are resolved.

To the best of our knowledge, there are four possible options that the PennDOT (and local) funding would permit, noting that there are variations and creative options within these four broad categories:

  1. Replace the dam, reconstruct an automotive road. This is the current plan on the table, incorporating a two-lane road. It is possibly the most expensive and environmentally damaging plan, but maintains Broomall’s Lake and allows the greatest amount of transportation access between Media and Upper Providence.
  2. Replace the dam, create a greenway for pedestrians and bicycles, possibly that is open to emergency vehicles. This would maintain Broomall’s Lake and the parklike atmosphere between the lake and Glen Providence Park, while allowing passage between Media and Upper Providence.
  3. Remove the dam, build an automotive bridge. Dam removal and stream restoration tends to be a less expensive option, often 2-3 times less expensive. Environmentally, dam removal can be disruptive in the short term, but will overall cause much less damage to the park and will restore the stream to its natural course. It will improve water quality. All dam maintenance and ownership issues are resolved when there is no dam. There are many factors specific to Broomall’s Dam that can only be addressed by an expert. Building an automotive bridge, however, would be costly and have significant maintenance costs.
  4. Remove the dam, create a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, or greenbridge. This would potentially incorporate the cost savings and environmental benefits of removal, while maintaining a transportation connection between Media and Upper Providence.

As far as we understand, PennDOT would fund 80% of any of these four options. The rest of the money would come from local grants like that provided by Senator Pileggi.

Friends of Glen Providence Park wants to minimize damage to the park and create a pedestrian and bicycle greenway, to preserve and enhance the park for those who use it recreationally, and for those who live there — the wildlife. (The park was founded as an arboretum and bird sanctuary, after all.) We are currently working to understand the pros and cons of dam removal vs. replacement of the dam, particular to the 3rd Street Dam and Glen Providence Park.

Media Borough, Delaware County and Broomall’s Lake Country Club have also signed a stipulation agreement that seems to include replacing the dam and rebuilding a “roadway.” We acknowledge that the stipulation is a different challenge than PennDOT funding, and one that can probably only be handled by the signatories and their legal counsels.

That said, the stipulation was signed under false assumptions that PennDOT would only fund dam and bridge reconstruction, and that PennDOT was in charge of the project. It is now clear that Media Borough is in charge of the project, and PennDOT will fund any option that restores the public safety of the Third Street Bridge. Is it time to consider all the options? We think so. 

Check back regularly for updates and information as we do our research.

What are your priorities and concerns for Glen Providence Park and the Bridge/Dam?


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  1. John Dorchester

    I have always believed that the best option could be breaching the dam and creating a pedestrian/bicycle bridge given that the land and waterway on both sides of the bridge can be restored. However, once the lake has been drained restoring the land formally covered by the water of the lake, might be quite an undertaking. I simply do not know what that would take.

    The only other option that I would choose, if I had the option to choose, would be to re-build the dam with as narrow a footprint as possible, which may dictate an approach different from the current earthen dam that is proposed, and create a greenway over the top of the dam to carry pedestrians and bicycles.

    Great work to all involved – thanks

    • Shannon

      We’ve just started investigating breaching, and there are definite approaches to handling the restoration of former lakes. A lot depends on the sediment that is there, and how aggressive the owner wants to be with restoration versus letting nature take its course.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Chris

    It’s good to hear that nothing is set in stone, however, its seems to me that over the course of these discussions, the intent of the project was to repair the damn and restore the roadway. Suggesting that the damn be completely removed opens the discussion and slows the process even further.

    A discussion on what a “road” might look like and how it is accessed could yield very interesting options. As we begin to transition to a more bike-centric community, the steepness of both adjacent hills would suggest to me that an open, car-free, stop sign free “roadway” would be ideal for gaining and maintaining speed for the steep climb up the next hill. This central paved area could also accommodate emergency vehicles as needed, but limiting cars to this area would provide a more eco-friendly greenway, reduce the need for signs, speed bumps and the like, maintain the residential calm along 3rd Street, and provide a safe and enjoyable “extension” of the park rather than an intrusion into it. Ample sidewalks will allow walkers, baby strollers, and runners plenty of room to commute in and out of Media with ease.

    To date, there are approximately 210 U.P. households (over 500 residents!) south of N. Orange St and North of Ridley Creek Rd that could use this new entrance to Media without using a car. That means more parking spots in Media for other visitors, less pollution, and more community interactions. Town planners should consider the inevitable changes to transportation that will be forced upon us in the near future. This means more sidewalks and bike lanes, and less car-centric development.

    Everyone involved in this new conservation effort has done such a great job at not only building awareness of the issue, but of promoting the very neglected gem of a park that is right here in our own backyard. The bridge development project does not need to stop at the 3rd St Damn, but could be seen as a park revitalization program that extends from this new Park Entrance down and up again to the Old Park Entrance with improved trails, creek maintenance, and, dare I suggest, a bike path all the way to Ridley Creek State Park – less than a quarter mile away!

    This is my dream. Thanks for listening.

    • shannon

      I love your long-term vision with fewer cars, and more bikes and walkers. So many people think of the future with more cars and more high-tech transportation.
      We hope to be taking a holistic view of the park, revitalizing the park as a whole and bringing it back to a place of pride in the community. There is so much history and so much nature in our little park!
      Regarding your hopes for a bike path to Ridley Creek State Park, in later winter there will be a public meeting about the Delaware County Greenway development, hosted by the county. When we have more details we will definitely post it.
      Thanks for your ideas!

  3. Susanne

    Just wanted to say that Friends of Glen Providence Park is doing great work! Green space on our planet is disappearing at a very fast rate. Any action people can take towards preserving and protecting nature is very important for our future and especially our children’s. I support thee idea of creating a green way. I believe it will help to preserve the tranquility and peace that the park has to offer.

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