Hopes of a quick fix for the pedestrian bridge in Hallam’s Emig Park were dashed Monday night when the borough engineer presented council with the results of his analysis of requirements to replace the timber structure washed out by flooding last summer.
The study, which used Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps to determine how high above the creek the bridge would have to be in order to be out of the floodplain, resulted in an estimated cost of $40,000 to $50,000. That is money the borough does not have in its budget.
“We’re definitely going to have to look for grants for this,” said council member Cindy Knox, who heads the Parks Committee. “That means next year — because the application period for those grants is closed for this year.”
The biggest driver of the cost is the need for the new bridge to be elevated almost five feet above the small stream, an unnamed tributary of Kreutz Creek. That would be high enough to be above FEMA’s base flood elevation for the stream. The base elevation, formerly referred to as a “100-year flood” elevation, is the height floodwaters have a 1% chance of reaching in any given year.
Derek J. Rinaldo, of C.S. Davidson, told the council the old bridge is a wooden structure built more than 25 years ago as an Eagle Scout project. Such a simple bridge would not be allowed by today’s floodplain regulations.
“If you put a bridge in at two-feet above the creek like the old bridge, we could not sign off unless it was designed to withstand the pressure of floodwaters,” Rinaldo explained. “There is a cost benefit to elevating it. If you elevate it, it won’t have to be as floodproof and will actually cost less.”
Rinaldo suggested council look at two options, a prefabricated fiberglass structure, or one made from weathering steel, a low-maintenance option designed to develop a rustic-looking coat of rust that does not require painting.
“The steel is slightly more expensive, but many people like that rustic look in a natural setting. It’s used a lot in state parks,” Rinaldo said.
Knox said a replacement is needed because the park’s playground sits on the opposite side of the creek from its parking lot and picnic areas.
“When the creek is low, kids can scramble across. But that doesn’t help the elderly or the handicapped, or the mother with a toddler and a stroller,” Knox said.
Projects of this nature are typically eligible for federal disaster relief funds, but the damage from the Aug. 31 storm that caused flash floods in parts of York and Lancaster counties was not sufficient to qualify for a federal disaster declaration.
“It’s a heartbreaker for us,” said council President William Fitzpatrick, “We’re a small community. We cannot afford it without grant money.”