Update: The McShain Hall bridge re-opened on Nov. 17 with temporary repairs.
An inspection of the McShain Hall bridge in mid-September led to its closure, cutting off a key connection between the two sides of St. Joe’s campus for university members who use the bridge to safely cross City Avenue.
The bridge remains closed while temporary repairs are made, according to Timothy McGuriman, vice president of Administrative Services, who said the bridge should reopen by the end of November.
“Out of an abundance of caution and the fact that we now have an active construction site, the bridge is closed,” McGuriman said.
The Office of Residence Life notified McShain residents Sept. 21 that the bridge was closed but no notification of the closure was given to the rest of the university. Residents have not received an update since the initial email.
“We haven’t heard anything from the school, but there are rumors that it will open up after Thanksgiving,” said McShain resident Dino Charitos ’21. “SJU hasn’t even said what’s wrong with it.”
McGuriman, citing the need for “some maintenance” that engineers noticed during the inspection, said permanent repairs will be made once outside temperatures are warmer.
The Hawk filed a Right-to-Know Request with The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for a copy of the bridge inspection report but did not receive a response by press time.
While McShain Hall sits on the Merion side of campus, City Avenue is a state road, and the bridge spans two municipalities. Multiple jurisdictions complicated construction of the bridge 30 years ago.
“It turns out there are 21 jurisdictions that have to approve a bridge across City Avenue,” said Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J., who was president of the university at the time the bridge was constructed. “You got two cities, you got two counties, two electrical sources, two area codes for phones.”
Rashford joined the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) to get an inside position on the board to grant permissions for the building of the bridge. It was a strategic move that he said gave him contact with the state treasurer and the secretary of transportation.
“Once I was on the DRPA, every meeting I had, the state treasurer was at my right hand with the secretary of transportation right next to him,” Rashford said. “So every time I had a meeting I brought up what I needed. Everyone didn’t want to be the one to bring us down, so it fell into place.”
The construction of the bridge in 1988 was a monumental moment in St. Joe’s history, bringing together the two sides of St. Joe’s that were separated by City Avenue.
“Number one it was a safety issue because I know there were people who would just cross, and they wouldn’t even go up to the light,” said Martin Farrell ’88, vice president of the Office of University Advancement, who graduated the year bridge construction began. “It also made a statement for folks who didn’t know about St. Joe’s.”
Daniel Joyce, S.J., executive director of mission programs, who was also a senior when construction began, said the building of McShain and the bridge signaled a “new era of growth” for the university.
“The bridge was definitely a way for us to let the thousands of drivers passing by each day know that Saint Joseph’s was a presence,” Joyce said.