PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Two bridges and lots of opinions. PennDOT hosted a highly anticipated public open house Wednesday night, providing the first look at the proposed Fort Jenkins and Water Street Bridge Projects.

And residents were hoping for some long-awaited answers about the future of the now-closed Water Street Bridge.

Two century-old bridges over the Susquehanna River connect Pittston and West Pittston: SR 11, the Fort. Jenkins Bridge, and Water Street, a.k.a the Firefighter’s Memorial Bridge. They’re only about 300 feet apart, but they can’t stand alone.

Traffic has become a significant issue in west Pittston ever since the Water Street bridge aka the Firefighters’ Memorial bridge was closed last summer.

it was deemed unsafe after an inspection found extensive deterioration and erosion of the steel. Leaving only the Fort Jenkins bridge to connect the municipalities, which is also due for an upgrade according to PennDOT.

“Three, four o’clock? Forget it! You’re sitting and waiting backed up, Exeter Avenue gets backed up about two blocks, two and a half blocks,” stated Audrey Kurz, West Pittston.

“Entirely backed up! It takes you 20 minutes to cross when it used to take about two minutes,” said Fred Kurz, West Pittston.

More than 300 people from both sides of the river attended the public open house in Exeter, Wednesday evening, eager to hear PennDOT’s proposed solution.

The presentation began with a little background, built-in 1914, Water Street is a steel truss bridge. It would be complicated and expensive to repair.

Fort Jenkins was built in 1926 out of reinforced concrete, making it easier to repair. PennDOT officials talked through several alternative options. then they presented their ‘Best Apparent Alternative’ which is to replace the Water St bridge, and repair or replace the Fort Jenkins bridge.

Fort Jenkins would get a new traffic signal and dedicated left-turn lane in West Pittston. They would also make it wider with three lanes and a sidewalk. The new Water Street bridge would get two lanes and two sidewalks. Officials explained the cost is roughly the same to repair or replace water st. but replacing it buys 100 more years of use instead of 50.

“It doesn’t make sense to make an investment that’s going to last a short period of time versus one that will span the next 100 years and I think the decision has to be based on that,” said Pittston Mayor, Michael Lombardo.

The overall cost of the project is in the $50M range.

The audience was not happy to hear how long this would take as PennDOT said construction would start in 2026 and might be complete by 2028.

Those interested can you can take a look at all 8 of the alternative options

Follow this link where you can submit a public comment to PennDOT.