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New bridge, gates unveiled

W-B’s South Franklin St. Bridge off Horton Street will protect homes from a swollen Solomon Creek.

PennDot workers show the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department crews how the gates built on the South Franklin Street bridge work on Wednesday morning.

Times leader staff photo/clark van orden

WILKES-BARRE – South Wilkes-Barre residents gathered by a renovated bridge with city officials and workers on Wednesday, hoping the new structure and its gates will keep their basements dry.

The city unveiled the new South Franklin Street Bridge off Horton Street and demonstrated how its gates will prevent Solomon Creek from flowing onto surrounding streets.

“It’s a positive step forward,” said Mayor Tom Leighton, calling the gates “a great preventative measure.”

When the creek rises, the city’s fire department and Department of Public Works can use a tool to unlock the 26-foot-long gates from the front of the bridge. Steel plates on the gates will be dropped to the street, creating a 5-foot-high barrier that will seal the creek water. A support beam comes out of the middle of the road on both sides of the bridge to secure the gates.

If four men work on each side of the bridge, it will take about an hour to set up the gates, said Stan Daniels, project manager for PennDOT.

Three more bridges along the creek on Waller, Regent and Barney streets are scheduled to be reconstructed with the stainless steel gates by early 2008, said Butch Frati, the city’s planning and development director.

Ramps on the sides of the bridges will allow city workers to clean out the creek with small bulldozers, which could also help prevent flooding, Daniels said.

The projects can’t be done fast enough for nearby residents.

Some, who live near some of the bridges that have yet to be completed, fear that the renovated South Franklin Street Bridge could now send more rushing water toward the bridges that aren’t completed.

“All I have to say is, ‘Git-r-done,’” said Regina Williams of Church Street, borrowing a line from comedian Larry the Cable Guy.

Williams said flooding from the creek seems to be occurring “more and more frequently.”

Marie Kerechanin of Barney Street said she’s happy officials have decided to tackle the problem, but said she won’t be comfortable until after the bridge on her road is renovated.

“Every time the crick goes up, we are (flooded),” she said. “All of us are just totally fed up with it.”

The Waller Street Bridge will be completed in about three weeks, Daniels said. Work on the other two bridges has not begun.

Daniels said the gate system will be used next time the creek waters rise regardless of how many bridges have been completed. He said he doesn’t believe people who live near yet-to-be completed bridges will experience more flooding because of the gates.

Each bridge will cost about $2.4 million to replace, Frati said. The city will pay 5 percent of the total cost for the South Franklin Bridge and 5 to 20 percent for the remaining bridges. State and federal funding will cover the rest. Frati said the order in which the bridges will be completed was set by PennDOT based on how problematic they are.

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