Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) have dedicated a $200,000 boat ramp constructed as part of repairs to the nearby Washington Crossing Toll Supported Bridge. A ramp was helpful to the bridgeworks, but in discussion with local groups it developed into being constructed to be a permanent facility.
Bridge works themselves cost $2.37m.
In a ceremony on completion of the boat ramp project, DRJTBC's chief Frank McCartney this week presented a large golden key to Joan Hauger, administrator for the Washington Crossing Historic Park with other local officials on hand. At the ceremony was John Godzieba, 2009's and this year's "General George Washington" and president of the Friends of Washington Crossing Park, also a Bristol PA police lieutenant.
Boat ramp replaces large crane
The boat ramp is 153ft long and 16ft wide (46m x 4.8m) and uses a flow resistant system called cellular concrete mat (CCM) which consists of of precast concrete blocks held down by anchors underground in the river bed, the blocks strung together with a horizontal grid of polyester cable.
The ramp will not be for public use, but will be made available to approved users - most important perhaps emergency services needing to do river rescues of boaters or swimmers in trouble. By one estimate the ramp could get rescue craft to people in trouble five minutes faster than possible from alternate ramps.
Most publicized use will be in the annual reenactments of the famous crossing of the icy Delaware River by George Washington's forces which enabled them to surprise and rout the British/Hessian troops 9 miles, 15km downstream in Trenton on the morning of December 26, 1776.
In the night between 11pm Dec 25 and 3am Dec 26, 1776 2400 men from Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York plus 18 artillery pieces and horses and ammunition were gotten across the fast flowing river in Durham row boats and ferries. Conditions were perilous with ice floes in the rapidly flowing river, sleet and snow.
In the following battle of Trenton the Hessian forces were forced to surrender after fierce fighting in which they suffered 22 dead, and 83 serious injuries. 896 were captured. The Americans suffered only two deaths and five injuries from war wounds, but they suffered much larger losses from exposure, exhaustion and disease.
It was a relatively small but a brilliant battlefield victory that is thought to have been crucial to reviving the morale of United States forces, gaining crucial Jan 1st, 1777 reenlistments, plus French naval support. These allowed the Americans to eventually carry through to victory, and secure independence.
The annual reenactors of the famous river crossing have in recent years been deploying a large diesel-powered crane that costs $6,000 to rent - used to hoist the reenactors' boats smoothly over riverside rocks into the river. A benefit of the DRJTBC bloat ramp will be that the reenactors won't need to rent that crane.
We can't find any reports that the real Gen Washington and his men needed either a $200k boat ramp or a $6k/day diesel crane to get their boats into the Delaware River 234 years ago. But we suppose there are limits to authenticity in historic reenactment.
We're assured the boats they use for the reenactment don't have outboard motors.
The boats make use of the river flow and a steering oar to get across the river, landing well downstream of their takeoff point.
Unlike the real event, they do the annul reenactment in daytime hours and several years have cancelled the crossing because of dangerous conditions in the river - whitewater here, not tidal as in Philadelphia. About 100 reenactors represent the 2400 who actually crossed in 1776.
Frank G. McCartney, the Commission's executive director is quoted in a statement: "This boat ramp is a testament to how we try to partner with other governmental agencies and community organizations when planning and carrying out a bridge project. It's very satisfying to know that this boat launch will play a role in helping to promote the public's appreciation of Revolutionary War history and that it could one day facilitate life-saving river rescues."
There has been a bridge of some kind at the site since 1831. The present 6-span light steel truss bridge is vintage 1904 superstructure, built on stone abutments going well back into the 19th century. the bridge is strictly cars only, with a deck width of only 15ft, 4.5m. It has a 6,000pd, 2.7t weight limit, 8ft, 2.4m height limit, speed 15mph. An average 6,900 vehicles/day use the flimsy bridge.
The Washington Crossing Bridge is the fifth DRJTBC bridge counting upriver from the Trenton-Morrisville Toll Bridge (CORRECTED.) The Commission has seven toll bridges that generate sufficient profit to support 13 untolled bridges, of which the Washington Crossing Bridge is one.
The Commission is a bistate authority of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The Washington Crossing Bridge is 877ft, 263m long - indicative of the distance Washington's forces had to boat that rough Xmas night two and a third centuries ago.
CREDITS: The project was designed by Dewberry-Goodkind and contractor was James J Anderson Construction. Construction management was by Hill International with a DRJTBC team of chief engineer George Alexandridis and project manager Chris Harney and Roy Little