The Old Neiffer Road Bridge in Schwenksville, also known as the Sunrise Mill Bridge, has recently been completely rehabilitated after years of deterioration and severe damage from the post-Hurricane Ida floodwaters. Originally constructed in 1845, the bridge is part of the historic Sunrise Mill complex, which contains buildings dating to 1767. The bridge is a four-arch, stone masonry structure, which carried Old Neiffer Road over the Swamp Creek, and was last rehabilitated in 1967. The bridge was closed to traffic when the Neiffer Road Bridge was constructed by PennDOT further downstream. The Old Neiffer Road Bridge will now become a trail connector from the complex to the future Swamp Creek Trail.
The Sunrise Mill Bridge rehabilitation Engineering contract was awarded to Gannett-Fleming of Audubon, PA. The project was in the design phase in 2020 and was scheduled for construction in the summer of 2021. However, the remnants of Hurricane Ida dropped upwards of 8 inches of rain in Montgomery County in a 24-hour period on September 2, 2021. The Swamp Creek, swollen beyond capacity due to the storm surge, reached a level that overtopped the bridge. The surging floodwaters caused significant damage to the structure including a collapse of the downstream barrier wall and arch ring, bulging of the abutment wingwall, and significant loss of stones across the entire bridge.
The construction work began in January, 2022. The project was awarded to Loftus Construction of Cinnaminson, NJ with oversight and inspection services provided by McTish, Kunkel and Associates of Allentown, PA. The process of rehabilitating a stone arch masonry bridge requires the placement of arch centering, or shoring, equipment, and the dismantling and reconstruction of the bridge elements. During this work, the area was hit with another significant rain event on April 8, 2022. Once again, the Swamp Creek was elevated to a near 10-year flood level. The storm surge, coupled with upstream debris from the winter months, caused a damming effect at the construction site, which eventually gave way and damaged the structure further.
Despite this significant setback of additional damage and lost equipment, the construction resumed almost immediately. The structure was in danger of suffering an arch collapse, but the construction team worked quickly to repair the pier damage and strengthen the arches over the next few weeks.
By July 2022, the bridge was beginning to resemble its original look. The arches had been rebuilt and the stonework on the spandrel walls was nearing completion. Through the good fortune of consecutive dry months, the construction continued uninterrupted. The arch centering supports were removed and the construction focus was on the barrier walls and bridge deck surface. Stone masonry work and repointing continued throughout the project until Loftus Construction successfully completed the rehabilitation of the Sunrise Mill Bridge on September 8, 2022. The following photo shows the finished product from the downstream view. Many thanks go out to the team that brought this beautiful structure back to its former glory, including: the Loftus Construction team, McTish-Kunkel & Associates, Gannett-Fleming and many representatives of Montgomery County that made it possible.