Buttonwood Street Bridge reopens for the first time in nearly two years
With a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, local officials welcomed traffic to the newly renovated Buttonwood Street Bridge.The crossing, which connects Reading and West Reading over the Schuylkill River, the West Shore Bypass and railroad tracks, had been closed for repairs since July 2015.
“It’s a big relief,” Ryan C. Hunter, Berks County facilities director, said as crews removed barriers so the first wave of vehicles could hit the fresh pavement. “We’re very proud of it. It was a tremendous amount of planning.”Gray skies and a light drizzle didn’t stop a crowd of local politicians, transportation officials and residents from coming out for the occasion.
Officials cut a ceremonial ribbon with novelty scissors before Reading Mayor Wally Scott and West Reading Mayor Valentin Rodriguez Jr. made the first trips across the bridge. To commemorate the bridge’s construction 85 years ago and rebirth on Friday, Scott rode in a 1930s Ford Model A while Rodriguez drove a 2017 Ford Mustang.Before its $14 million overhaul, the bridge was among the worst-rated in Pennsylvania. It’s now structurally rehabbed and spruced up with fresh concrete, new lighting and a newly added metal barrier between the road and sidewalk.While the start of the project was repeatedly delayed by red tape, its end came a couple weeks ahead of schedule.
The two-year closure resulted in some traffic headaches, especially in West Reading, where left-turn restrictions made it difficult to access Penn Avenue businesses.But the Buttonwood project was just the start of bridge work in downtown Reading. In mid-May, PennDOT plans to move to the next phase of work on the nearby Penn Street Bridge, which will result in lane restrictions and the closure of a Route 422 exit ramp.While Buttonwood Street isn’t on the official Penn Street detour, it’s likely to become a de facto alternate route for drivers familiar with the area.
Before it closed, Buttonwood saw an average of 16,500 vehicles daily.“It’s actually going to give us relief with the upcoming construction on the Penn Street Bridge,” Berks County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt said of Buttonwood’s reopening.Barnhardt and Gail Landis, senior vice president of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry, are co-chairs of the public-private Reading Bridges group that has coordinated public information campaigns related to the bridge projects.
Landis touted the coalition’s work getting the word out about the Buttonwood project and said even more outreach is planned for the Penn Street work.“Even as we move forward from this bridge to the next bridge, we’ll keep the community informed,” she said.
Scott and Rodriguez each expressed a hope that the new Buttonwood Street would lead to more development and greater cooperation between the city and borough.
Contact Liam Migdail-Smith: 610-371-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org