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BUSHKILL, PA: On behalf of the National Park Service (NPS), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John J. Donahue would like to extend his sincere gratitude and appreciation to area residents, commuters, business owners, and park visitors for their patience and understanding during the closure of Route 209, which lasted just over a year.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was instrumental in helping the NPS complete this complicated undertaking. FHWA officials recognized the significance of Route 209 to the local communities, to the region, and to park visitors from across the country. Both organizations worked together to restore safe and sustainable access to this vital artery as quickly as possible. FWHA secured funding through the agency's Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads program, executed the planning and design, and managed construction work being done by the contractor. Without their assistance, a project of this size and scope may have taken years to complete.
The devastating effects of 2012's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have since been overshadowed by the more recent destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, but many places in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are still struggling to overcome the damage caused by last fall's storms. The FHWA remains an integral partner in storm damage recovery projects throughout the park including repairs to Raymondskill Bridge, the Dingmans Falls Access Road, and other sections of Route 209 in Pennsylvania, and Blue Mountain Lakes Road in New Jersey. Most of these repairs have been completed or are near-completion.
The National Park Service is especially appreciative of the assistance provided by the elected officials who not only worked behind the scenes to help get this multifaceted project prioritized and funded, but also toured the damage and construction sites in an effort to fully understand the complexity and significance of the project. Superintendent Donahue praised PA State Senator Lisa Baker, PA State Representative Rosemary Brown, Lehman Township Supervisor Paul Menditto, all of whom visited in person, and Senator Toomey, Senator Casey, Congressman Barletta, and Congressman Marino who sent representatives to observe the site.
Governor Corbett's office was also instrumental at key points. Mr. Harry Forbes, Director of the Governor's Northeast Regional Office, coordinated with PA Department of Environmental Protection and Pike County Conservation District on behalf of the NPS to streamline and expedite the environmental permit review.
Mr. Forbes also provided assistance by coordinating with Met-Ed FirstEnergy Corporation (Met-Ed) during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when high winds and downed trees brought power lines down on equipment within the construction zone halting the project just days before the scheduled completion date. Before work could resume, the lines had to be removed and with the assistance of Mr. Forbes and Mr. Marc Troutman, General Affairs Manager at Met-Ed, the job was back on track with only minimal delay despite widespread power outages and downed lines throughout the company's service area.
Superintendent Donahue would also like to thank the Delaware Township Supervisors who hosted NPS officials at one of their meetings, providing an opportunity for project managers to share information about the project with the public, answer questions, and dispel rumors.
"But most of all, I am grateful to all of the people who live and work in the area and to those who passed through during the course of the last 13 months," said Donahue. While some folks understandably voiced their concerns over the detour and the length of the closure, most accepted the additional 2-mile drive without complaint. Donahue added that the project would have been completed by the original date predicted over a year ago, when FHWA engineers first closed the road, if Superstorm Sandy had not delayed the final stages of construction. "It took a storm of historic proportions to impede the progress made by the contractor G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc., of York, PA, and even then, completion was only delayed by three weeks."