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Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild. Traffic Impacts Starting June. Plus Some History

Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild.  Traffic Impacts Starting June.  Plus Some History
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The Somerdale Road bridge in Gloucester Township is set to be rebuilt starting this year.

The current bridge was developed in 1936, and last month Camden County announced the start of the project to full reconstruct it.

In my visit 2 weeks ago I saw that construction equipment and materials were already being collected at the site.

But impact to local commuters isn’t likely to start until around June, when the roadway over the bridge temporarily becomes one-lane.

Construction signage at on Somerdale Rd in Gloucester Township announces One-Lane traffic will start in June (Note the sign displays fine. This image is because of how my iPhone captured the image. I’ll likely stop back and reshoot with a different camera!)

In the early January information release the County said the project will run until May 2024… but I wonder if that date is going to be a little later based on actual construction work starting after the school year.

Also, I visited the site about 2 weeks ago and during that visit I found some cool artifacts of a 110 year old bridge which is at a location which has history going back to the 1690s.. so at the end of this article I ramble on about that, as well as mentioning the nearby Gabreil Daveis Tavern.

Foundation remnants of a County bridge developed in 1910 which headed off of Somerdale Road into Glendora and the Gabiiel Daveis Tavern! More on that below!

Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild

It’s likely that you’ve driven Somerdale Road 100 times and never really paid attention to the bridge which crosses over a small segment of the North Branch Big Timber Creek.

If you’re traveling from Chews Landing Rd, not too far past the Wawa strip mall the road dips down lower and crosses the creek… where the bridge is located.

This is a key roadway between Chews Landing Rd (Black Horse Pike) and Hi-Nella / White Horse Pike.

In the immediate area of the bridge is the relatively new Heritage Park, which was installed by Gloucester Township back in 2017.

Gloucester Township’s Heritage Park parking area will be used as a construction staging area for the Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild project

In my visit at the end of January I could see the park’s parking area was going to be used as a construction staging area, and equipment was already being added to the site.

The county’s information states that this is a $4.1 million project which is being funded through a Local Bridge Future Needs Grant and is administered by the State Department of Transportation.

“This project is another investment we are making to our county’s infrastructure to ensure it remains solid to provide for future generations,” said Commissioner Al Dyer, liaison to the Department of Public Works. “Reconstructing this bridge will allow motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to safely and efficiently traverse this span while they travel through this area.”

Camden County New Release – January 2023

The news release goes on to say that the County is currently in an historic investment effort to rebuild county bridges and roadways. In 2022, with Federal, State and County funds more than $33 million of projects have been or are currently under construction, and in 2023 another $22 million in projects are under designed or construction to maintain the areas vital infrastructure.

The bridge on Somerdale Road in Gloucester Township is bring rebuilt starting in June 2023.

Somerdale Road Bridge – One Lane

The “One Lane, Starting In June” aspect is presented on a digital sign that is on display at the bridge site.

While engineers had preferred to fully close the bridge for the project (faster development) it was determined that it was more beneficial (and safer) to the community to keep one lane open.

A key factor in the final decision to keep one lane open was a concern of the police and fire departments in being able to quickly reach all areas of the community (if the roadway were closed).

So the bridge will be rebuilt one “left/right side at a time” and traffic will have to be alternated when crossing the bridge.

Likely, road safety crew members will hold one direction of traffic while the other direction passes through.. and then switch the traffic direction.

Overhead view of Somerdale Road, the bridge that is being rebuilt this year (in the distance) and Heritage Park which will be used temporarily as a construction staging area.

The roadway is already a very busy local road, and it would seem that during this construction time it would likely be better to find alternate routes.

Nearby Evesham Road is one option, as it also connects the Black Horse Pike area with the White Horse Pike.

Bridge Remnants From 1910 and Other History

I mentioned earlier that after countless trips over the Somerdale Road bridge you likely don’t even pay attention to it.. so absolutely you aren’t noticing the remnants of another bridge about 25 feet away!

Today as you cross over this segment of the Timber Creek you can only travel straight through, via Somerdale Road.

But 100 years ago there were options to travel off at this point to the northwest towards Glendora and the Gabreil Daveis Tavern.

Remnants of a long ago bridge next to Somerdale Rd at Timber Creek. Photo taken from the current bridge with my iPhone. No fancy zoom lens, it’s this close to the bridge!

There were actually two crossovers in this immediate area. One was an extension of Bees Lane which crossed over Somerdale Road and continued into the woods behind the historical tavern.

And there was a second cross-over over the creek, coming from Glendora (Tavern) area which had a small bridge that lead into Somerdale Road. On the Tavern side of the Somerdale Road the two former roads joined.

Somerdale Rd Bridge in Gloucester Township is being rebuilt. Next to it is the foundation remnants of a bridge from 1910, The dedication plaque is still there! Old roads/trails indicated in Red and based early 1900s map data

While the bridge portion of that former road is gone, today the stone foundation still remains and can be seen from the sidewalk of the Somerdale Road bridge!

And it’s much more than a stone foundation… the bridge dedication plaque is still there and can be clearly seen from the sidewalk!

The plaque includes all of the names of the Bridge Commission members of the time, and the dedication date of 1910.

Stone foundation remnants of a long gone bridge over the Timber Creek along Somerdale Road. Look at the far wall… a plaque!

I had a brief chat with a member of the Gloucester Township Historical Society who tells me this area used to be called “the buttonball” (after a Sycamore tree that grew there) and people would come from all over to swim in the Creek. It is said that cars would line Somerdale Rd, parking so that families could swim!

Over 110 years later and most of that sitting in the woods, the plaque can still be read clearly! (Taken with iPhone and cropped)

A 1959 article from the Courier-Post describes a plan by the Glendora Businessman’s Association to convert the historic area of woods and water along this segment of the Timber Creek into a park.

The article references the area as “the buttonball”!

The article goes on to say that the area is linked to South Jersey history going back to the colonial days!

So I mentioned that today there is the smaller Heritage Park along Somerdale road, but across the Creek and through the woods is the Gabreil Daveis Tavern… which while not mentioned in the article was likely part of the land they were considering in 1959 for a park.

If you visit the Tavern on the Glendora side you can walk through a few trails behind the tavern which leads you to the other side of this 1910 bridge foundation, as well as the “Bees Lane” extension (both are no long there)

The other side of that 1910 bridge is this signage installed by the Gloucester Township Historical Society, as party of the Gabreil Daveis property. The former bridge is in the distance to the right. This small portion of land was important to travelers going back to 1690!

At each of those points the Gloucester Township Historical Society has installed signage which gives a bit of the history of the roads.

At the other side of that 1910 bridge, the sign states that this part of the Timber Creek was a public boat landing going back to the 1690s. After 1756 low-tide travelers who for a short amount of time could not pass through along the creek, would pass time at the Gabreil Daveis Tavern!

A second sign over by the connecting point of Bees Lane identifies it as Otter branch and states that it was once part of the Irish Road which crossed here near a grist mill pond.

I will be back in a few weeks to get a tour of the Tavern (when their Spring season starts) and I’ll have more coverage on that interesting and still widely unknown Gloucester Township historical site.

Bees Lane also at one time extended over Somerdale Road and lead to Glendora and the Tavern

Links and Location

Somerdale Road Bridge Rebuild
Somerdale Road over Timber Creek

Gabreil Daveis Facebook Page