A better, stronger rail bridge that crosses Loyalsock Creek and serves industries along the Lycoming Valley Railroad near Montoursville and Muncy will be in place by the end of next year.
That's the message the SEDA-Council of Government's Joint Rail Authority's board of directors told a group Tuesday evening at a meeting held at the Montoursville Borough Council offices.
A new $14 million rail bridge connecting the borough and Loyalsock Township will take the place of a 1927 span that was devastated during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.
Since then, rail traffic has been rerouted on neighboring Norfolk Southern lines to continue serving customers.
But that has come with a price tag of nearly $30,000 a month out of the Lycoming Valley Railroad's pocket.
Rail authority and county planning officials discussed details for the new structure and, at the same time, reaffirmed the state's interest in completing a flood protection system for Montoursville.
Mark Murawski, county transportation planner, said the borough is on a waiting list but should receive notification early next year from the state Department of Environmental Protection that a levee system will be constructed in 2015 or 2016.
For more than 15 years, county and local officials have looked at ways to protect Montoursville from floods while creating a direct access road to the Williamsport Regional Airport and replacing the aging rail bridge.
Murawski explained that funding for the "package" of projects fell apart earlier this year.
"There's a statewide transportation funding crisis," Murawski said, adding that "it's virtually impossible" to secure funding for such projects.
That's why rail authority and elected officials needed to act quickly to at least replace the rail bridge, they said.
According to the rail authority, funding for the new bridge includes $4.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $3.5 million from the state Department of Transportation's rail freight capital budget and a $2.4 million Federal Railroad Administration Rail Line Relocation Grant to the county.
Murawski said that while a bridge replacement normally takes about four years to complete, this will be done in two.
The new structure also is expected to reduce flood hazards to the borough and lower lying areas near the bridge.
"This (old) bridge was an impediment to Loyalsock Creek," said Jeff Stover, rail authority executive director.
The new bridge will have just one pier in the water during normal stream flows, according to John Conrad, bridge engineer with Keller Engineers Inc., of Hollidaysburg, who designed the structure. The original bridge, designed by the Reading Railroad, had five piers in the water and was anchored on foundations just eight feet below the creek.
Conrad said his design has the bridge secured on pilings driven 50 feet below the creek into bedrock.
The bridge, which will be compatible with the proposed borough flood protection system, will be a foot higher than the previous one and will allow fast-moving flood waters to flow through its center truss, Conrad said.
Mill Street will be shifted temporarily a few feet to the east during construction, but planners said access to the borough boat launch, sports fields and park still will be available.