Stevens hopes upcoming bridge meeting will help guide supervisors

Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel: Supporters of the Chandler Mill Road Bridge proclaim, "This Place Matters To Us" at a rally to have the bridge protected several years ago. The bridge has remained closed since 2011 as its fate is debated.

Kennett Township supervisor Scudder Stevens hopes that an upcoming meeting on the Chandler Mill Road bridge will bring some clarity to the issue.

“There’s a whole lot of concern in the township – and in the surrounding areas – for what is going on with the bridge, how it should be resolved, and what are the options,” Stevens said.

The single lane bridge, which is listed on the National Historic Registry, has been closed for nearly two years as its fate is debated on both the state and local level.

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Stevens said that he questions why the original plans for the bridge from six years, where the township would take over responsibility of repairing and maintaining it, were changed midstream.

“There had apparently been support in maintaining the bridge as status quo,” Stevens said. “And then at some point … there was a change where the township all of a sudden was no longer interested … in doing anything other than to maintain it as a county bridge.”

He added that, from what he could find, the whole issue of responsibility hinged on the question of insurance expense and liability.

“Frankly that doesn’t make complete sense to me and I’ve been trying to understand that, and I wonder if there are other dynamics going on that would have changed the focus of this,” he said.

Stevens said that felt there has recently been an “apparent, clear shift” between his fellow supervisors – Mike Elling and Bob Hammaker – on the importance of trails and conservation easements in the township that he questions is ultimately attached to the bridge.

“If it is, I want it on the table, so everybody knows what it is,” he said. “And not just done without a clear community by-in of what the township is committed to.”

Stevens also said that there is more recent support from the immediate community in preserving Chandler Mill Road as a rural corridor, and that a two-lane bridge would bring more traffic through the region.

“There’s concern that Chandler Mill may be the shortcut out of the township to Route 7 and 41, and the new potential Walmart shopping mall (in New Garden Township), which would increase traffic flow on Chandler Mill Road dramatically,” he said.

He also said that, as far as the community members on the township side of the road are concerned, if keeping it rural means creating a dead-end at the bridge, they are prepared to face that reality.

To balance that, Stevens said, he’s concerned for what that would mean for residents among both Hillendale and Round Hill Road.

“Apparently, traffic has increased on both of them,” he said.

Stevens said that he only wants to make sure the community at large has an opportunity to hear both sides and to get their own opinions heard before any major decisions are made.

“I was having difficulty getting the history clear, and was aware that where strong feelings on both sides, but those who are interested in preserving the historical and ecological values that the bridge has come to symbolize seem to be growing in the community,” he said.

The Chandler Mill Road bridge meeting is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, March 25 at the Kennett Township building.