Haddon Township residents are perplexed that a charming little bridge they believed would be fixed by April remains a work in progress - with no work or progress visible.
"I look out my window every day and see the porta-potty," sighed Janice Eichmann, 74, whose home is adjacent to the 41-foot span.
Camden County built the bridge in 1923 to carry West Park Boulevard over Newton Creek in Westmont. The bridge continued to pass inspections but wear and tear and weather have taken their toll. It was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in September; work began that month, but sputtered to a stop in December.
"I'm still waiting," Eichmann said. "I'm about to call and say, 'Hey, if you're not coming back, could you remove that porta-potty?' "
That won't be necessary. The $273,800 project is expected to resume June 24 and "should be finished about 60 days after that," county spokesman Dan Keashen said.
The two-lane structure needed substantial reconstruction, as well as new sidewalks and accessibility improvements. Sandy slowed the work, and replacement of a six-inch cast-iron gas main also was necessary, he added.
PSE&G finished its project work ahead of schedule Nov. 26, a spokeswoman for the utility said.
But a standard test found that the fresh concrete reinforcement of the deteriorated outer portion of the arches that support the bridge did not meet federal safety standards. The project was halted while engineers and design consultants looked for a solution.
"One of the reasons we do these inspections is to make sure the material being used has the [required] integrity," Keashen said. "The contractor made a mistake, and they are remedying it at no additional cost to the county."
(I spoke with a receptionist, left two voice mails and sent an e-mail seeking comment from the contractor, R.E. Pierson Construction Co. in Pilesgrove, Salem County, but did not receive a response Wednesday.)
The remedy involves reinforcing the exterior of the arches with corrugated metal plates. Because these must be custom-fabricated, work will not resume until late next month.
"We realized that residents will continue to be inconvenienced," Keashen said. "We want to see the bridge opened as quickly as possible, and we also want to see the project done right."
Although the residents I spoke to want their bridge back, several say they've come to enjoy the quiet.
"I hope they never fix it," chuckled Guido Zappasodi, 87, who has lived with his wife, Jean, on the east side of the bridge for 50 years. "We love the quiet," she said.
So do Michael A. and Marilyn A. Fisher, who live across West Park from the Zappasodis.
"It could stay like this forever as far as I'm concerned," Mike, 74, said, half-seriously.
"They can't give up," Marilyn, also 74, added. "It's a main county road. They have to finish it."
Marianne Murray, who has lived in and loved the neighborhood for 44 years, said, "It's been one . . . excuse after another. I wouldn't be surprised if it's another year before it's finished."
Because West Park is an alternative to busy Haddon Avenue, "we were joking that right now, people can't bypass our business district," said Doug Kelly, who owns a hair salon on the avenue.
"Instead of people driving around us," he added, "they're coming right through downtown Westmont. Which is not a bad thing."