Emergency Repairs Needed for Falls Bridge

2/1 UPDATE:  Bridge Repairs start today.  Crews are fitting special brackets under the bridge to strengthen steel beams beneath the road surface. City officials recommend cars use the City Ave bridges thru April 1st when the repairs are expected to be done.(bikers & pedestrians can still cross bridge). For more information see ChannelSix’s report with video.

1/20 UPDATE: See the end of article for update from Philly Streets Department on closure dates and detours.

Remember last month when our historic “Pratt truss” bridge took a nasty hit?

Eastfallslocal bridge collage 12-19-15

An article today on reports recent inspections following this incident discovered a whole new issue:  significant corrosion underneath that needs to be fixed this February.

How bad is it? Enough to lower the bridge’s load limit from five tons to three, the lowest load a bridge can bear and still remain open.

While no exact start date has been announced, city streets commissioner David Perri said the 4 to 6 week project to reinforce the bridge will begin sometime this February. Detour routes still to be determined:  right now, the plan is only to close the bridge to cars, while still allowing bikes and pedestrians.

Eastfallslocal EF bridge collage

Of course, with a 121 year-old bridge, there’s no telling what additional structural issues might surface that could complicate the repairs. For instance, ideally the entire deck should be replaced, but that would add about $6 million to the undertaking.  And PA has, like, no money for our aging infrastructure.

(no worries, only 22% of our local bridges are deemed structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration, yeep).

February’s emergency reinforcements aren’t a total fix, just a patch job really, that only helps postpone inevitable work needed to keep the bridge functioning long-term. Fortunately, Perri insists Philadelphia is determined to repair and not replace our beloved East Falls bridge:  “It’s a historic bridge, so it’s an asset we don’t want to lose. We do not want to have to completely rebuild the bridge.”

This post will be updated with information as it is released to the public. Here’s hoping repairs go smoothly and the bridge’ll be back better than ever for the Dance on the Falls Bridge next September.

Jason Laughlin is a staff writer, please visit for the full article. Thanks to EFL reader Brian Kistler for passing this link along. 

UPDATE (1/20)

Temporary lane closures beginning Monday, January 25; Bridge Closed to Vehicular Traffic Monday, February 1

Philadelphia – Streets Commissioner Donald D. Carlton announced today that on-site construction activity will commence on Monday, January 25 for the rehabilitation work on the Falls Bridge over the Schuylkill River. The rehabilitation work will require the bridge to be closed to vehicular traffic, while pedestrian and bicycle access will be maintained during construction.

On Monday, January 25, the contractor will close the upstream sidewalk across the Falls Bridge from Kelly Drive to Martin Luther King Drive. The contractor expects short-duration lane closures on the bridge during the off-peak hours from 9AM to 3PM. On Monday, February 1, the contractor will close the Falls Bridge again to vehicular traffic. Detour signs will be posted around the bridge closure. Traffic will be detoured to the City Avenue bridges.

It is expected that the rehabilitation work will be completed by April 1, and the Falls Bridge will be reopened to vehicular traffic at that time.

This project includes the rehabilitation and strengthening of the existing steel floor beams and stringers. The work will be performed by Buckley & Company, Inc. and Cornell & Company.

The Streets Department thanks the citizens in advance for their patience and cooperation during the upcoming construction.


    • Hmmm… I’m no engineer, just quoting article: “The damage was significant enough to lower the bridge’s load limit from five tons to three, the lowest load a bridge can bear and still remain open.”

  1. I believe it means that no single vehicle weighing more than three tons can use the bridge. … this same designation has rerouted SEPTA’s K Bus around a bridge on Coulter street.

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