Freightliner Strikes Historic Opossum Road Bridge
By Barbara A. Preston l July 27, 2021
Montgomery Township police ticketed a Philadelphia truck driver for attempting to navigate his Freightliner over one of the oldest bridges in New Jersey on Thursday at 11:45 am.
The single-lane stone-arch bridge on Opossum Road, just south of Orchard Road, was built circa 1822, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Somerset County rehabilitated the bridge in 2002, and reappointed the fieldstone in 2019. The bridge is a treasure to many Montgomery residents, especially those who like to walk on Opossum Road, which has access to the Swann Preserve public pathways.
Residents increasing decry the increased misuse of the bridge by truckers and oversized vehicles, who disregard the weight limit of the roadway. The one-way sign is also disregarded by many motorists.
Corey Gant, 40, of Philadelphia, reported he was following his GPS to make a delivery in Hillsborough when he attempted to cross the bridge.
Police located him with his 2018 Freightliner
disabled on Opossum Road with several damaged trailer tires. He reported to police that his tractor-trailer tires struck the bridge while he was driving across. The bridge sustained contact damage, but remained passable.
Police ticketed Gant for operating an overweight vehicle on the bridge. He is scheduled to appear in Montgomery Municipal Court at a later date.
A sign on the bridge states: "BEDENS BROOK/5 M To P/1822/JWR/AHK." Bedens Brook is the name of the watercourse the bridge crosses. "5 M To P" is shorthand for "5 Miles To Princeton," which community is approximately that distance to the south. The middle line of the marker is the date the bridge was built. Its last line appears to be a maker's mark, probably of the man who carved the stone; it is a small, stylized set of initials, the uprights of the "H" shared by the "A" and the "K." JWR is carved in larger letters. It probably stands for John Rowland. This information is from the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places.
As Montgomery Township continues to add large residential and commercial developments, the traffic on local roadways has soared. Many drivers use GPS to look for shortcuts as a way to avoid the traffic. This puts vehicles onto roads that were never engineered to accommodate the size of these trucks or the volume.
Opossum Road is a residential street. A new road is on the books in Montgomery Township that would go from the new municipal complex on Orchard Road through to Route 518.
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Hopefully Montgomery officials will find a way to protect the local treasures and landmarks that make the township unique, and such a charming place to live.