The Bridgeport Viaduct, which carries the Norristown High Speed Line over the Schuylkill River between its namesake borough and Norristown Transportation Center, is in bad shape. Bad enough that SEPTA announced last December that it does not believe it will be safe to ride over after this summer, unless repairs are started pronto. Unfortunately, the capital funding crisis has meant, among other things, that basic maintenance like fixing the bridge has been put off for years, until now when it’s critical. Fortunately, SEPTA was able to scare up just enough money to do a temporary fix to this critical link in the regional network. It’s not really enough, but it will do for now, until the deadlock breaks in Harrisburg.
Starting tomorrow (Monday, 8 July), the NHSL will not serve Norristown. Shuttle buses will be provided. Mondays through Fridays, the NHSL will go as far as Bridgeport, and shuttle buses will run between Bridgeport and NTC. Weekends, NHSL trains will terminate at Hughes Park. Since Hughes Park is not an ADA accessible station, the shuttle buses will instead run from Gulph Mills, and stop at DeKalb and Bridgeport stations on their way to NTC.
The fix being done now is replacing the ties installed in 1985 and at the end of their service life, plus some band-aids applied to structural elements. It will not cure the entire litany of structural problems of the 101-year-old bridge, but it will allow service to reopen this year. NHSL service over the viaduct does not have a fixed reopening date, but it is expected to happen in November. That’s better than we expected in December, when we thought “temporarily suspended” might mean for Norristown what it meant for West Chester, Newtown, and Bethlehem. But we need to keep leaning on legislators in Harrisburg to fund SEPTA sufficiently that we aren’t repeating this dance in three years, either here at the Schuylkill on the NHSL, or at Crum Creek on the Media/Elwyn Line, which SEPTA has indicated is the most endangered bridge in the system after Bridgeport. Our predecessors skimped on prevention; now we need many pounds of cure.