Tacony-Palmyra Bridge: Living Laboratory for Engineering Students
Palmyra - The Tacony-Palmyra Bridge will be transformed into the first "living laboratory" for engineering students from Rowan University and other local colleges as part of two federal grants awarded to Drexel University in the amount of $900,000. This unprecedented, cutting-edge educational initiative, developed by Pennoni Associates (the Commission's resident engineer) and Drexel University, will ultimately enhance the safety and improve the Commission's historically significant bridges.
Drexel Receives Grant for Tacony-Palmyra Bridge to be "Learning Bridge"
Continued from e-mail below
The first and only educational opportunity of its kind, this collaborative research program will explore how to use technology to transform real structures into living laboratories and project them into the classroom. The program will also challenge the way engineers are trained by observing and monitoring how active bridges are designed, operated, and managed over their lifecycles.
“First, Drexel and Pennoni brought us smart technology. Now, the Bridge Commission can literally change the way engineers learn while it reaps direct benefits from their real-time studies,” said Commission Chairman John Comegno. “This is a win-win for the Commission, for the motoring public and for the students who have an opportunity for hands-on experiences at our facilities.”
David Lowdermilk, Vice President for Pennoni, stressed the importance of the collaboration, “Without a real live bridge on which to do this work, and a Bridge Commission with foresight to support sound and innovative engineering and education, this grant would never have been possible. In fact, it probably would have been rejected.”
Lowdermilk also indicated that in this highly competitive National Science Foundation grant program, only 5% of applicants actually are awarded grants. And while it is rare for an institution to receive one grant, it is an even bigger honor to be awarded two grants.
As the primary learning tool in this grant, the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge will be equipped with $200,000 worth of monitoring instrumentation and other smart technology provided by the NSF grant funding. That equipment, provided at no cost to the Commission, will be used by educators across the U.S. and even the world to teach their students.
Dr. Franklin Moon, one of the Drexel University experts involved in the partnership between the school and Pennoni Associates, presented the Bridge Commission with a letter of appreciation for the Commission’s innovative work. “In ancient times, engineers and architects were trained by observing bridges and other structures,” said Moon. “After the 1950s, ‘applied science’ became the preferred curriculum for engineering education and lecture-based instruction became the norm—live observation and learning through experience became a thing of the past. There is no question that this collaborative research project offers an outstanding opportunity to develop a new and more effective civil and environmental engineering education program.”
“Having been an educator myself, I am thrilled that today’s students will benefit from this initiative—and will learn from actual data being sent from our bridges to the classroom live via the internet,” said Priscilla B. Anderson, Commission Vice-Chairwoman.
“As a member of the Board of Trustees of Rowan University, I am excited by the prospects of this partnership between the Bridge Commission, Rowan and other fine universities in pioneering a new way to teach engineering studies,” said Commissioner Troy E. Singleton.
The Burlington County Bridge Commission manages the Tacony-Palmyra and Burlington-Bristol Bridges, and through its economic development and improvement authority powers, assists Burlington County municipalities in economic development and community revitalization projects and extends pooled financing options to local governments and nonprofits in Burlington County. These initiatives have resulted in a savings of approximately $14 million dollars. The Commission’s grantwriting services have resulted in 22 municipalities receiving a total of more than $6.9 Million in funding, all at no cost to the taxpayers.
Commission Receives Letter of Appreciation from Drexel
At the Commission’s October meeting, Drexel Assistant Professor Franklin Moon, PhD, presented Bridge Commission Chairman John B. Comegno II with a letter of appreciation honoring the Commission’s interest in and support for advancing civil engineering education.
Continued from e-mail below
The letter states: “It is through the foresight and forward thinking of the Burlington County Bridge Commission that we have been able to find this opportunity to advance the education we are providing to future civil engineers. ….we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for the collaborative opportunities the Burlington County Bridge Commission has provided to us... I know that our faculty share these thoughts and are deeply grateful for the Commission’s interest in higher education.”
The letter, authored by Anthony Lowman, PhD, Drexel College of Engineering Associate Dean and Senior Associate Vice Provost of Research, also mentions how the Bridge Commission may benefit from the large number of student apprentices who will work with the bridges for their research projects and perform tasks that will be needed by the bridge engineers for preservation and renewal of “these signature historic landmark structures.”
Rancocas Creek Clearing Moves on to Lumberton
Local and County Officials Kick Off Phase Two of Debris Removal Project
Large cranes and heavy equipment operators have returned to the banks of the Rancocas Creek, and local and county officials have greeted them as phase two of the major debris clean-up project got underway.
Burlington County Bridge Commission Chairman John B. Comegno II (left) with Burlington County Freeholder Joseph B. Donnelly at the ceremonial creek cleaning "kick-off" at Ironwood Outdoor Center.
Continued from e-mail below
The site of today’s ceremonial creek cleaning “kick-off” was Ironwood Outdoor Center, an 84-acre recreational area that is situated less than a mile upstream from downtown Lumberton, where 200 residents were flooded from their homes in July of 2004. Many found themselves in a similar situation when another flood-causing storm hit the area in April 2007.
“This is both an environmental investment and an economic investment of no small magnitude,” said John Comegno, Chairman of the Burlington County Bridge Commission.
“Homes and businesses sustained more than $25 million in damage as a result of the storms of 2004 and 2007,” Comegno continued. “The experts agree: removing tons of fallen trees and other debris is an important step in helping to mitigate future flooding.”
Comegno was joined by Burlington County Freeholder Director Joseph Donnelly, Lumberton Deputy Mayor James Conway, Jr. and Committeeman Patrick Delaney, Medford Mayor Dave Brown and Councilwoman Mary Ann O’Brien, and Southampton Mayor Jim Young.
Together, the bridge commission, freeholders, and impacted communities have engaged in the massive creek cleaning project as a shared services initiative. But the commission has borne the major cost, and awarded an $845,000 contract to NuPump Construction of Malaga to undertake the second phase.
NuPump will be removing debris from 60 obstruction fields in a three-mile stretch of the creek located entirely in Lumberton. Identified as Reach 3, it flows from Eayrestown-Newbolds Road to Main Street.
“I don’t think anyone can erase from their minds the photos and videos of our residents standing outside their flood-ravaged homes and businesses,” said Deputy Mayor Conway. “We are extremely appreciative of the commitment that the freeholders and bridge commission have made to cleaning the creek.”
Freeholder Director Donnelly said the County would absorb the cost of disposing the timber and other debris at the county landfill complex, a tipping fee that would otherwise top $40,000.
“The good news is that this project, even when all four of the targeted reaches have been totally cleared, won’t cost local taxpayers a cent,” said Donnelly. “If you’re looking for a shared services project that truly saves the towns money, this is it.”
NuPump also won the contract to clear Reach 1 and, in the fall of last year, successfully cleared 29 debris fields from a 1.4-mile stretch of the creek in Southampton. This section of the creek included the area from Vincentown Mill Dam to Landing Street.
The work is labor intensive. According to James Streit, Vice President of NuPump, the cranes can’t reach all areas of the creek, so many trees have to be cut into smaller pieces and floated to access points where they can be removed.
The bridge commission has applied for federal stimulus dollars to clear the remaining two reaches, which includes:
- Reach 2, which flows from the Landing Street Bridge to the bridge crossing at Eayrestown-Newbolds Road in Lumberton Township; the stretch of the Rancocas is approximately 2.8 miles long.
- Reach 4 represents the northern most segment of what is commonly known as the Southwest Branch of the Rancocas Creek. The majority of the segment is located in Lumberton Township. The most upstream segment is located in Medford Township, approximately 500 feet south of the border with Lumberton Township; this portion of the creek is about 2.1 miles long.
John Scillia with GSE Civil/Environmental Engineers said the entire project involves clearing some 187 debris fields that his firm has identified in over nine miles of creek.
The towns, for their part, will be working to harness the energy of volunteers in future years to undertake annual debris clearing projects, in hopes of minimizing shoaling that can hamper stream flow.
“When you remove the heavy debris, the difference in the creek is night and day,” said Southampton Mayor Young. “You can actually see the water flowing more quickly, the way it should.”
Medford has already tackled the task of clearing a portion of the southwest branch, which flows into Reach 4. Mayor Brown and Councilwoman O’Brien introduced Bernie Mayer, a local resident who mobilized volunteers to clear some of the debris in a two-mile portion that flows between Medford Park in downtown Medford to Kirby’s Mill, not far from the Lumberton border.
“The story is that Bernie was bold enough to come to council and ask if something could be done to clear the creek for canoeing,” quipped Brown. “He was immediately given the volunteer job of Canoe Trail Chairman.”
Andrew Giles, Director of Ironwood, said he also saw the creek clearing as a positive development for recreation, especially for canoes and kayakers who drop in near the center. But Giles also vividly recalls the 2004 flood.
“The water rose so high that you couldn’t see our building,” he said. “The only thing left exposed was the roof.”
Palmyra Cove Hosts NJDEP "Water Monitoring Day
On October 7th, fifty students from Camden’s St. Joseph-Pro Cathedral School came to Palmyra Cove Nature Park for a day of recognition of the importance of protecting our planet’s supply of fresh, clean drinking water.
Continued from e-mail below
NJ DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello (above) and Richard Kropp, Administrative Head of the United States Geological Survey, welcomed the 7th and 8th grade students who spent time working with environmental professionals on a variety of water monitoring programs and activities. Students learned about watersheds, the importance of clean water, water testing techniques, and the kinds of aquatic wildlife that thrive in Palmyra Cove Nature Park. They were also introduced to the career possibilities that exist in water science.
Participating in the event, which fell a few weeks after the international celebration of World Water Monitoring Day, were members of AmeriCorps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state DEP, the United States Geological Survey, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the New Jersey Geological Survey.