To prevent the next 100-year flood from devastating Baldwin Street, Bridgeville might have to demolish some bridges.
The borough’s engineering firm, Lennon Smith Souleret, came to that conclusion while analyzing the geographic and structural factors that make Bridgeville so prone to flooding.
Last week, engineer John R. Heyl shared the results of that work with the borough planning commission, outlining three different flood mitigation options that would cost between $19.6 and $21.4 million.
Each of the plans calls for two bridge demolitions.
The Bower Hill Road bridge near the Dari-Delite would be removed and replaced with a bridge better suited to handle the volume of water that flows beneath it.
The bridge linking Baldwin Street and McLaughlin Run Road would also be demolished. But that bridge doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced.
Instead, the borough could save $1.8 million from the total project cost by creating a cul-de-sac at the end of Baldwin Street. The new dead end would be flanked by greenspace designed to accommodate any water that rises over the creek banks. An inexpensive pedestrian bridge would allow residents to access McLaughlin Run Road.
Another, more radical, concept would essentially delete Bower Hill Road, fill it with greenspace, and turn Baldwin Street into the new Bower Hill Road. However, this would cost $1.9 million more than simply replacing the bridge, and would require the borough to demolish more than two dozen buildings.
Or Bridgeville could just build a new bridge and otherwise preserve the neighborhood as-is.
But a multi-million investment in the Baldwin Street corridor should have loftier goals that keeping the area the way it is, said former Bridgeville mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. Any big ticket project should also aim to address challenges like traffic, parking, and neighborhood revitalization.
“There’s more of a problem in this area than just flooding,” he said. “These properties are impacted by multiple issues. Flooding is just one of them. I would hope that we would not want to keep [the area] exactly as it is. I hope that there are some improvements.”
Beyond the Baldwin Street corridor, all three of Lennon Smith Souleret’s proposals call for more than $6 million in flood prevention measures at the north end of Bridgeville—where McLaughlin Run creek flows behind the municipal building and Sports Haven bowling alley—and further south near Maple Street, where the creek takes an extremely sharp right turn. Improvements in those areas could include levees, water pumps, and new floodplains.
All things combined, the total-project cost of the plan that includes the Baldwin Street bridge replacement is $21.4 million.
The total cost of the plan with the cul-de-sac would cost $19.6 million.
The final cost of the plan that eliminates Bower Hill Road is $23.3 million.
Planning commissioner Larry Lennon Sr., an engineer who founded Lennon Smith Souleret 35 years ago, said that there might be a fourth alternative that could save money.
Upstream from Bridgeville, the creek flows through some undeveloped land that could be used to accomodate excess water during heavy rains.
“I realize that that’s in St. Clair,” Lennon Sr. said, “and that could be problematic, but I think we really need to look at it. Because $20 million is obviously a huge lift for the borough.”
If the Bridgeville eventually moves forward with any of these plans, the borough can expect help with funding, Heyl said.
“I believe that the lion’s portion of this could be funded through grants,” Heyl said. “We’ve received $500,000 just in the last year for flood control projects [around Bridgeville].”
Bridgeville’s planning commission is an advisory group that makes recommendations to borough council. The commission itself does not have the power to approve plans or change local ordinances, and any funding it receives is approved by council.