Government Transportation

First Contract Awarded As Commission Weighs Replacement Of Washington Crossing Bridge

Some residents have said they don’t want the bridge replaced.

The bridge at Washington Crossing. Credit: Tom Sofield/

The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission is advancing its plans to potentially replace the 119-year-old Washington Crossing Toll-Supported Bridge.

On Monday, the commission awarded a contract to HDR Engineering Inc., which is based in Philadelphia, to perform preliminary engineering, environmental services, alternatives analysis, public involvement, documentation, and other services in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The contract is valued at $8,061,761.62 and will be funded by tolls from the commission’s eight bridges, with no tax dollars being allocated, the commission said in a statement.

According to the commission, the review will span several years and contribute to the decision on whether to replace the “operationally challenged” bridge that links Upper Makefield Township to Mercer County, New Jersey.

“Today’s contract award is a step forward toward determining what approach the Commission should take with its aging, limited-capacity, safety-challenged Washington Crossing Bridge and its inherently poor customer-experience profile,” said Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission Executive Director Joe Resta. “This environmental review will take years to complete. It’s a first step strictly limited to research and analysis. It does not authorize the hiring of a contractor and it certainly does not authorize design and construction of a new bridge.”

Some residents of Upper Makefield Township and neighboring towns on both sides of the Delaware River have urged the commission to reconsider any plans to replace the existing bridge.

The possibility of reconstruction surfaced earlier this year.

The news prompted Upper Makefield Township officials to hire an expert to evaluate the historical significance of the bridge in an effort to preserve it.

The commission said in a statement: “The current Washington Crossing Bridge has been a bane to generations of motorists.  It is the narrowest of the commission’s 18 vehicular bridges, with a 15-foot-wide roadway that can force motorists to a crawl in 7.5-foot-wide lanes — one in each direction.”

The statement added: “Motorists have frequently reported instances of breaking sideview mirrors while crossing the bridge. Also, in recent years, commission public-safety personnel have experienced an uptick of confrontational incidents with drivers of oversized vehicles attempting to cross the narrow, weight-restricted structure.”

In 2023, the bridge saw 2,609,703 vehicular crossings, down from its peak of 2,743,743 in 2016.

Originally opened in 1905, the bridge was not designed for modern vehicles.

Structural issues have been exacerbated by oversized vehicles, such as a March 2023 incident when an Amazon tractor-trailer collided with the bridge and caused significant damage and a temporary closure.

The commission has acknowledged that the bridge’s steel through-truss superstructure has deteriorated and does not meet current design standards. Despite this, a 2022 inspection found the bridge capable of safely supporting the posted load limit of three tons or less.

As part of the review process, the commission will consider the potential replacement of the bridge alongside other alternatives, including rehabilitation.

The environmental review will address impacts on land use, socioeconomic and environmental justice, wetlands, watercourses, floodplains, hazardous waste, habitats, endangered species, cultural resources, air quality, noise, and community facilities. Additionally, the review will consider the bridge’s location between two state parks and its historical significance as the site of Gen. George Washington’s 1776 military crossing.

A website, stakeholder meetings, open houses, and public hearings will be part of the evaluation process.

The commission provided the below history of the span:

The current steel, double-Warren-truss Washington Crossing Bridge opened to traffic April 11, 1905. It was constructed by the long defunct New Jersey Bridge Company of Manasquan, N.J.  The bridge’s original owners were the Taylorsville Delaware Bridge Company, which was established in 1831, and a newer companion Washington Crossing Bridge Company, which was formed in 1904 to raise the additional capital that was needed to build the current bridge.

The bridge replaced a former wooden covered bridge that was destroyed during the “Pumpkin Flood” of October 1903.  The first wooden bridge at the location was constructed in 1833-34 and opened as a tolled crossing on January 1, 1835.

The current steel bridge has been rehabilitated multiple times over the past 12 decades.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.