RIVERSIDE - The Danville-Riverside Bridge will be closed to all truck and non-local traffic for three days in June to facilitate the replacement of a nearby railroad crossing.

That's what officials from PennDOT and Canadian Pacific, owners of the crossing, told a room full of local residents who attended a public meeting Tuesday at St. Peter's Fellowship Hall. A similar meeting involving stakeholders, including representatives from Geisinger Health Systems, Knoebels Amusement Resort and elected officials from Riverside and Danville, was held last month.

The crossing will be closed between 6 p.m. Friday, June 20, and 6 p.m. Monday, June 23, while crews remove the approaches and deteriorated crossing and lay down a new 120-foot cement panel and to regrade and pave the approaches.

Rationale for the plan

Officials said the date was chosen to avoid school functions, community activities and times of high traffic volume. It is estimated that 12,500 vehicles per day travel over the crossing.

Eastbound traffic traveling toward Elysburg and trucks traveling in either direction will be directed to use Route 11 to Route 42 near Bloomsburg to Route 487 in Catawissa. Six message signs will be positioned throughout the region, including one in Elysburg, to help direct motorists.

Local traffic traveling west on Route 54 toward Danville will be allowed to cross the bridge via D and H Avenue. Traffic will be directed through the intersection at the bridge to South D and H Avenue to Chestnut Street, where flaggers will direct motorists to make a 180-degree turn onto North D and H Avenue. Motorists will gain access to the bridge at the end of the block. Emergency apparatus will be allowed to travel in both directions.

Several people asked why D and H Avenue cannot be used for both west- and eastbound traffic during construction. Stephen Mutchler, assistant traffic engineer for PennDOT, said curbing installed during bridge construction in 1998 has made the street too narrow for two lanes of travel. He also said that vehicles traveling in both directions and attempting to negotiate the 180-degree turn would cause an "unbearable" backup.

"Even this local detour is going to back up," Mutchler said. "We came up with the best plan that impacted you the least."

Residents upset

Mutchler's response did not quell emotions from angry Riverside residents, many of whom will be forced to go 30 miles out of their way. Several residents recommended IDs or passes could be used to determine who is or who isn't a Riverside resident, but Mutchler ended the debate when he said two-way traffic over the bride is a "dead issue."

Dave Muchal, Canadian Pacific regional track superintendent, said crews will work around the clock to have the road open by 6 p.m. Monday. The only thing that could delay the opening would be rain, he said.