Opinion: Bridge in Perkasie connects communities, sense of belonging
By Scott Bomboy
On Thanksgiving Eve, Perkasie witnessed an event that only happens every century — the opening of a new bridge connecting our town. To understand why that’s a big deal in Upper Bucks County, you need to understand Perkasie.
That’s what Mayor John Hollenbach told the three Bucks County commissioners who made the project happen — Rob Loughery, Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Charley Martin. The commissioners were a bit surprised that 500 people would show up for an 11:30 a.m. ribbon cutting and parade over the Walnut Street Bridge.
County Bridge 13 symbolizes a lot in our community. Perkasie was formed in 1879 during the railroad boom. About 20 years later, the neighboring village of Benjamin joined us. In 1907, architect Adam Oscar Martin designed a state-of-art concrete bridge over the Perkiomen Creek vital to growing commerce in Perkasie, Sellersville, Silverdale and nearby Souderton. It was used to carry goods, including millions of cigars, to other towns using motor vehicles at a time when most roads weren’t paved.
Over the years, the bridge represented the physical connection between the more urban Perkasie Town Center and rural South Perkasie. The bridge saw its share of parades, accidents, and even an attempted payroll robbery in the 1930s. But in 1970, the Walnut Street Bridge began to crumble. Bucks County spent $72,000 to rehabilitate the bridge, but by 1988, it needed to be replaced as Perkasie became developed with housing and more businesses.
The project stalled for decades after the federal government and PennDOT became involved. To our town, losing the bridge for an 18-month project represented losing customers for our businesses, emergency responders being delayed and neighbors being disconnected. It just wasn’t a traffic inconvenience.
The county commissioners broke the funding log jam by deciding to put up $5 million for the new bridge, funds to be reimbursed by the state. The contractor, H & K Group, did the work in 14 months under difficult conditions. During that time, Perkasie residents adapted, finding ways to get to work, shop locally, get kids to events, and conduct all the business vital to a town with 8,500 people.
And the bridge opened on time and within budget, thanks to the county commissioners’ bipartisan efforts. While those are all things to be thankful for, what impressed the commissioners the most — as Diane Ellis-Marseglia said so eloquently — was the need for us all to understand how bridges connect communities. It’s not just a physical connection.
In Perkasie and our neighboring towns, we get that. Small towns are linked through personal relationships and a sense of belonging we highly value. We are grateful for the county’s work to get the bridge built, but the bridge’s absence reminded us how much we have in common. That’s something to be truly thankful for in these times.
Scott Bomboy is a member of Perkasie Borough Council and Perkasie Planning Commission.
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