The Delaware River Blog

Delaware River Bridges

While we embark on this journey up the Delaware River, imagine the sounds of nails being hammered and rivets being driven or the images of floods carrying away bridges and horses crossing bridges. Our trip will consist of 140 miles through the Delaware River Joint toll Bridge Commission jurisdiction passing numerous bridges scattered over the river. The jurisdiction is divided into three sections called districts. District one includes two toll and seven non toll bridges. District two is located in New Jersey and consists of two toll bridges out of seven in total. District three is located in Pennsylvania and contains four total bridges in which three require toll payments. All the bridges are operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

The Lower Trenton Bridge is commonly referred to among locals as the “Trenton Makes Bridge”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally constructed in 1952, the Trenton-Morrisville Route 1 Toll Bridge was originally built as a four lane bridge spanning 1,324 feet in length. In 1965, the structure was expanded in width to allow for six lanes. The original structure was made with a concrete deck and supported with steel girders. U.S. Route 1 is the road that connects Trenton, New Jersey to Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

As we head north, the next bridge is the second of three bridges that connects the communities of Trenton and Morrisville. The Lower Trenton Bridge that exists today is made of stone but the prior structure was formed completely out wood in 1806. Currently, the 1,022 foot bridge is two lanes wide and doesn’t require toll payments. When it was re-created in 1928, The Lower Trenton Bridge was coined as “Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge.”

About one mile due north of the Lower Trenton Bridge is the Calhoun Street Toll Supported bridge. The final structure to connect the two communities of Morrisville and Trenton is the oldest of the three bridges. With a daily average of 18,000 vehicles, three ton weight limit, and 15-mph speed limit, bridge officers must station the bridge to overlook weight limitations of the structure. The original City Bridge sat in the same place until 1884 when a fire destroyed its wooden frame. Soon afterwards, the bridge would be re-constructed out of iron in only 60 days.

Continuing through District one, we stumble north upon Scudder Falls Bridge. The structure is overly congested with traffic and will continue to be as traffic is projected to increase 35% over the next 20 years. The concerns for safety require improvements to this bridge.

Washington Crossing Bridge has had three iterations throughout its 170 year history. The first iteration consists entirely of wood and was swept away by a flood in 1841. Another bridge was constructed and was used until the flood of 1903 had destroyed the structure again. The existing bridge was made from steel and stone just one year after the previous version was washed away. Fortunately, the structure held up after the flood of August 19, 1955 although substantial damage was done to all spans and even bent the bottom chords. Just three months later, the bridge would reopen after having pieces replaced with new steel. The bridge now sits comfortably between Makefield and Hopewell Township after major renovations in 1994.

Like Washington Crossing, The New Hope-Lambertville Toll Bridge also has been created three different times. Prior versions of the bridge were a victim to the same floods of 1841 and 1903. Similar to Washington Crossing, the existing bridge was created just one year after the flood that destroyed the wooden counterpart. New Hope-Lambertville Bridge is the most frequently used bridge by pedestrians out of all the others that lie on the Delaware River. Over 14,000 people crossed the bridge in one weekend day report.

Unlike previous structures linking communities between Trenton and Easton, the Centre Bridge-Stockton Bridge wasn’t washed away in the flood of 1903. Originally opening in 1814, the wooden frame would hold up until 1923 when a fire obliterated the structure. Only until 1927 would the structure reopen as a steel constructed Warren truss bridge spanning 825 feet in length. In 2005, the commission found that the bridge would have to undergo major rehabilitation to uphold its weight capacities.

The northernmost bridge in district one is Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge. The flood of 1903 would wash away the wooden version that was originally built in 1856. A distinguishing attribute to this bridge is that it was originally built to support vehicle traffic only to be currently used strictly as a pedestrian bridge. Vehicular traffic on the Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge was stopped in 1947.

New Jersey approach to Uhlerstown Frenchtown bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the southern tip of District two lay the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge. Original stone substructures, five piers, and two abutments still support the present bridge over 150 years later. Although some of the original bridge still exists, the bridge did get damaged during the flood of 1903. When the two spans were replaced with steel trusts in 1905, the bridge wouldn’t undergo major transformation until 1931. The reconstruction of 1931 would allow for modern day traffic. All wood and steel was removed and replaced with riveted steel Warren truss architecture. Currently, the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge has a weight limitation of 15 tons and a 15 mph speed limit.

Connecting Route 32 and Route 29 is the Upper Black Eddy-Milford Bridge. The wooden iteration of the bridge would last sixty one years until the dreaded flood in 1903. The present day bridge was constructed in 1933 out of steel and spans 700 feet in length. Most of the original stone substructures have been reinforced with concrete over the years. Interestingly enough, the bridge has no restriction on weight limits.

Riegelsville Bridge is a short trip up river and differs from the others. The present structure was created by a New York Company called John A. Roebling’s Sons Company in 1904 after the flood. Structurally, the Riegelsville Bridge has three-span suspension and has reinforced masonry piers. The weight limitations of one-half to two tons differ greatly from the Upper Black Eddy-Milford Bridge downstream.

As you make your way north, you’ll pass below the modern day architecture of the I-78 Toll Bridge. Unlike prior steel superstructures, this concrete bridge only has a 22 year history. Continuing on your journey, you will find another traditional forest green colored steel crafted bridge called the Northampton Street Bridge. There was a ferry service that was used to cross the river until a wooden bridge was created in 1806. The Timothy Palmer designed wooden bridge would withstand floods until commerce couldn’t be handled anymore. As a result, a new bridge would be designed by James Madison Porter III. The traditional steel bridge was tested by Hurricane Diane floodwaters where it would be damaged.

Slowly upon arriving at Easton Phillipsburg Toll Bridge, you will notice its unusual architecture compared to others along this trip. Initially named Bushkill Street Bridge in 1938, this structure has a unique 540-foot Petit through truss that skies across the river with shiny chrome glare. The steel toll bridge is 1,020 feet in length and carries four lanes of roadway. Lastly, District 2 concludes with the Riverton-Belvidere Bridge. The 653 feet long bridge consists of four-span riveted steel. Like other bridges on the Delaware River, the flood would wipe out the original wooden version.

Nearing the end of the trip but the beginning of District three, we see a ten span steel girder structure called the Portland-Columbia Toll Bridge. At 1,300 feet in length and 32 foot width this superstructure has reinforced concrete piers. Less than a mile away, we’ll find a historic pedestrian bridge that is also owned by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. In 1869, a structure was created as a crossing for vehicles or horse and carriage. The Portland-Columbia Pedestrian bridge was damaged from Hurricane Diane but now sits as a four-span, thru deck girder structure. Pier and abutment renovations were done in 1957 and 1958 to the pedestrian bridge. 1998 was the structure’s most recent upgrade that included blast cleaning and a new light sea green paint job.

Finally, as we make an end to our adventure, we make a long trip north and drift upon the Milford-Montague Toll Bridge. Just seven miles away from the New Jersey/New York state line lay a two-lane, 27 foot wide, steel bridge. As a portal to the Pocono Mountain resorts, this bridge provides much economic importance. Once voted as a top ten steel bridge in America, the Milford-Montague Toll Bridge has a rich view of the scenic area for travelers. After an enduring trek up the Delaware River, we reflect on a rich history of American landmarks. Through trials and tribulation, these superstructures of the water embody what America is all about. We believe to get back up after being knocked down and to withstand the elements in order to overcome. The bridges symbolize the intelligence and strength of the people.

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