Freedom! One small measure of freedom, at least of movement, was enjoyed Friday afternoon, June 28, when the Hawley Route 6 Lackawaxen River Bridge was full reopened - right on schedule.
The span had been down to one lane since early February when Kriger Construction, general contractor for PennDOT, began work. The bridge deck was replaced while temporary traffic signals meant traffic at certain peak times was backed up for blocks.
On at least one memorable Saturday in May, traffic was stopped on Route 6 across the entire borough, from as far as Pines Tavern past the Hawley Silk Mill on the east end to nearly Ridge Avenue past The Settlers Inn, on the west end.
It took much of Friday for Kriger to finish up and actually reopen the bridge. Temporary signals had to be taken down and put away; poles for the signals were uprooted; pavement lines were repainted.
Finally at 1:45 p.m., Kriger workers were picking up the barricades, finally letting traffic move in both lanes unimpeded.
The superintendent for the project, Joe Palickar, said it was "absolutely" a good feeling to have the project done.
PennDOT had assured all along that it would be wrapped up before the 4th of July, although there was plenty of doubt heard in the community. Rumors flew that the work wouldn't be done till September, although Palickar said that started in mid-winter with that in mind, to finish before most of the busy summer season.
Palickar said they dealt with delays in getting materials, and having to verify dimensions from "50 year old drawings." As was earlier reported, steel joints had to be re-ordered. In early June they finally switched from the upstream side to the downstream lane. Kriger worked on an accelerated schedule to get it done on time.
He said that between Borough, PennDOT and Kriger Construction, they shaved off approximately a month and a half of time had they not expedited in the last few weeks.
He thanked the Borough for all their help, and especially thanked the Borough Assistant Administrator, Eva Warner.
About 10 or 12 workers were assigned to the project each day, on average. They shifted about at multiple projects when they were not needed at Hawley.
"It's about time" shouted one woman as she drove past and saw the opening was coming, earlier that day.
Sue Baldwin, who was walking her dog over the bridge minutes after it reopened, said she was glad it was open but sorry about all the business that was lost in the process. She said it wasn't the contractor's fault- it was the motorists who refused to yield and blocked driveways while waiting in traffic. The fear was some shoppers just kept on going to get their gas or food somewhere else.
Page 2 of 2 - Hawley Public Library had the same trouble with access and has signs out telling people not to block the driveway.
Baldwin, who is president of Hawley Ambulance & Rescue, said the drivers weren't even making room for the ambulance at first, until she said she complained to Mayor Kevin Hawk. PennDOT then put up message boards telling people to yield for emergency vehicles. Baldwin said that helped.
She said the newly renovated bridge looks nice.
Hawley Diner may have had the right idea. Vehicles at times were stalled in line past the diner, over two blocks from the bridge. They had a sign by the curb with words to the effect, "Don't sit in traffic and GET MAD, come inside and get FED UP."
Kriger workers let out a cheer as another project was finally finished. Some bystanders said a ribbon cutting or some other celebration would have been nice. Perhaps it was enough that day, meeting people on the street who were smiling at the good news and glad to get the town back to normal.
Along with it, they have a new bridge deck, something easily taken for granted as the thousands of vehicles pass over daily.