DELAWARE WATER GAP, PA. – The bi-state Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) today announced a scheduled Sunday, Nov. 26, premiere of a 31-minute-long film reel showing the ceremonial 1953 openings of three Pocono-region toll bridges at Portland-Columbia, the Delaware Water Gap, and Milford-Montague.
The now-digitized reel of silent, color footage will be viewable on the Commission’s YouTube channel at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2EduQwMC_g. The Nov. 26 release is timed to advance the respective 70th anniversaries of the three bridges in December.
The historic footage is believed to never have been shown to the public. The film reel had been filed away in a storage area at the Commission’s former administration building in Morrisville, PA. for decades. The reel was discovered in 2022 as the Commission vacated its former Morrisville quarters to complete a shift of executive office and back-office operations to new quarters near the Scudder Falls Bridge in Lower Makefield, PA.
The soon-to-be-released digitized movie reel includes aerial and panoramic views of the newly completed bridges and nearby areas, the bridges’ original dual-direction toll plazas and approach roadways, processions of inaugural vehicle crossings, and celebratory dinners for two of the bridge openings. The lavishness of the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge’s dinner generated controversy a couple years later, being cited in a critical 1956 report by former New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner and New Jersey DRJTBC Commissioner Dwight R. G. Palmer.
The movie was produced by Lawrence Studio, a photography business that formerly operated in Stroudsburg, PA. The movie is divided up to provide approximately 10 minutes of footage on each new bridge location.
The following individuals – all now deceased — have been identified so far in the movie:
- PA Governor John S. Fine, who served from 1951 to 1955
- NJ Governor Alfred E. Driscoll; who served from 1947 to 1954
- Fred Waring, a bandleader with namesake radio and television shows who eventually acquired the former Buckwood Inn in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA., changing it to The Shawnee Inn.
- Former DRJTBC chairman Alexander R. Miller of Easton, PA. who was dismissed as a Commissioner in April 1955 by PA Governor George Michael Leader. Leader took office in January 1955.
- Former DRJTBC vice-chairman Henry T. Shelley of Milford, N.J., a former civil engineer who once served as Philadelphia’s city engineer and who served four terms as Milford’s mayor.
- A young William Johnson, later a DRJTBC executive director, seen checking the invitation lists for the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge’s dinner at the Penn Stroud Hotel’s ballroom in Stroudsbug, PA. Johnson abruptly and unceremoniously resigned from the Commission in March 1976.
- Charles Newbaker, the long-time caretaker/guard at the former wooden covered bridge at Portland-Columbia – seen riding in a ceremonial horse-drawn wagon across that bridge.
The bridge segments are as follows:
Portland-Columbia Toll Bridge
Dedicated and opened: Dec. 1, 1953. This was the third of the Commission’s eight toll bridges to be constructed.
Original construction cost: $4,118,000
Bridge info: 10-span steel-girder superstructure, 1,309-feet long. Piers and abutments are reinforced concrete with partially granite facings. Roadway has single 14-foot-six-inch lanes in each direction. The structure’s height is 65 feet above normal water level.
PA abutment location: Portland Borough, PA.
NJ abutment location: Columbia section of Knowlton Township, N.J.
Roadway connections: Shortly after opening, the bridge carried a newly aligned U.S 611 between Pennsylvania and New Jersey; ramps on Pennsylvania side connected with U.S. 611A, which was the former U.S. 611 segment between Portland and Delaware Water Gap. The U.S. 611 designation was moved to New Jersey upon the Dec. 16, 1953 opening of the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge, as a new concrete-divided “superhighway” between the Portland-Columbia and Delaware Water Gap bridges then carried U.S 611. The highway returned to its old alignments after crossing the new bridges back into Pennsylvania. The U.S. 611 segment in New Jersey was short-lived. It was re-signed as I-80 after that interstate highway’s first Pennsylvania segment (exit 308 to 310) opened in 1960. New Jersey’s last I-80 segment – a four-mile section immediately to the east in Knowlton and Blairstown townships — opened Nov. 8, 1974. The Portland-Columbia Toll Bridge now connects PA Route 611 in Pennsylvania (formerly U.S. 611 A) with U.S. 46 and NJ Route 94 in New Jersey.
Toll plaza: The original toll plaza on the Pennsylvania approach had three booths and four lanes. Automatic token and coin collection machines were introduced in 1971. Tolls were collected in both directions until 1989, when the facility was converted to one-way toll collection in the PA-bound direction. The facility now has three toll collection lanes. All lanes accept E-ZPass. At all times, a minimum of one toll booth is occupied by a toll collector to process cash payments.
First full year of traffic (1954): 713,546 vehicles; 1,955 annual average daily traffic (AADT)
2022 traffic: 2,601,401 vehicles; 7,127 AADT
Speed limit: 35 MPH
Last rehabilitation: 2015
Film footage depicts:
Aerial views of new divided concrete highway along the river’s New Jersey side with Pennsylvania’s Mount Minsi in the distance, the former wooden covered Portland-Columbia Bridge (believed to have been the longest remaining covered bridge in the United States at that time), the former Lehigh and New England Railroad bridge, and the new Portland-Columbia Toll Bridge with its connecting ramps and toll plaza. Ground-level view of the new bridge, the toll plaza, and toll-collection personnel. Former DRJTBC Chairman Alexander Miller of Easton, PA. and possibly other commissioners from that time take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with onlookers and children in attendance. The ceremonial closing of the old Portland-Columbia Bridge to vehicular traffic is then noted. The village of Columbia can be seen as well as the Delaware Water Gap and New Jersey’s Mount Tammany in the distance, followed by ground-level views of the wooden bridge. Chairman Miller speaks to onlookers at the bridge’s Columbia approach. After a final motor vehicle crosses, longtime bridge tender Charles Newbaker crosses as a passenger in a horse-drawn carriage. The bridge dating from 1869 then became a pedestrian-only crossing until it was destroyed in the river’s historic flood of August 1955. The Portland-Columbia segment ends with a drive across the newly opened toll bridge. The bridge’s toll plaza and administration building are seen in this segment.
The Portland-Columbia segment ends at the 8-minute, 30-second mark.
Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge
Dedicated and opened: Dec. 16, 1953. This was the fourth of the Commission’s eight toll bridges to be constructed. This is the Commission’s longest bridge.
Original construction cost: $7,855,000
Bridge info: Dual parallel 16-span riveted steel multi-girder structures, each approximately 2,465-feet long. The upstream structure carries traffic in the westbound (PA-bound) direction. The downstream structure carries traffic in the eastbound (NJ-bound) direction. The downstream structure also has a five-foot-wide walkway, which is the Appalachian Trail connection between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The bridge’s supporting piers and abutments are reinforced concrete with granite facings. Piers are circular columns with a taper into the river flow and cantilevered caps. Piers in the riverbed are supported on steel pilings. Other piers, the abutments, and curtain walls of cellular spans are supported on concrete bed footings. The bridge’s roadways are 59 feet above normal water level.
PA abutment location: Borough of Delaware Water Gap, PA.
NJ abutment location: Hardwick Township, N.J. (Pahaquarry Township was the original name of the New Jersey’s abutment’s location. Pahaquarry was dissolved in 1997 and folded into adjoining Hardwick Township.)
Roadway connections: The bridge originally carried U.S. 611 between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This roadway designation was changed to I-80 when Pennsylvania completed its first I-80 segment – from Exit 308 to 310 – in 1960. The New Jersey approach segment also was changed from U.S. 611 to I-80 at this time.
Toll plaza: The original toll plaza on the Pennsylvania side had eight toll booths and 10 lanes. Automatic token and coin collection machines were introduced in 1971. Tolls were collected in both directions until 1989, when the facility was converted to one-way toll collection in the PA-bound direction. The facility now has five toll booths and an adjoining single-lane Express E-ZPass/Open Road Tolling facility. At all times, a minimum single toll booth is occupied by a toll collector to process cash payments.
First full year of traffic (1954): 2,185,721 vehicles; 5,988 AADT
2022 traffic: 18,169,869 vehicles; 49,780 AADT
Speed limit: 50 MPH
Last rehabilitation: 2011
Film footage depicts:
An extended view of Mount Tammany in New Jersey. Aerial views of new divided concrete highway through the Delaware Water Gap along the former New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad right of way, the new Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge and its toll plaza, nearby river islands and countryside, and vehicles moving across the bridge. There are ground level views of a procession of vehicles moving through the toll plaza followed by views of the temporary stage installed for the bridge’s opening ceremony and the attending audience. Of the three 1953 bridge openings, this was the most significant. Chairman Miller, NJ Governor Alfred Driscoll and others are speakers. There is a brief pan of New Jersey and Pennsylvania state troopers before the apparently late arrival of PA Governor John S. Fine, who can be seen disembarking a car before walking up the stage steps to speak. Another vehicular procession is shown before the film proceeds to a ballroom dinner at the Penn-Stroud Hotel in Stroudsburg, PA., the front of which is shown. Dinner attendees are show advancing through the ballroom’s entry point. Among the individuals checking the approved guest list is William Johnson, who would become the Commission’s executive director in the 1960s. Governors Fine and Driscoll enter separately. They are later seen with Chairman Miller and Vice Chairman Henry T. Shelley of Milford, N.J. at a flower-strewn lectern, flanked by other apparent bridge commissioners at the head table. Some guest tables are shown, and musicians can be seen performing. A cigar-wielding Miller later introduces Governors Fine and Driscoll to speak. The segment then transitions to “Entertainment by Fred Waring.” Waring, a bandleader with namesake radio and television shows, acquired the former Buckwood Inn in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA. He also is the namesake of the Waring Blender. He is briefly seen speaking and singing. Other singers and speakers are then shown before the proceedings end with Governor Driscoll’s departure. The movie then shows a series of elevated and ground-level views of the New Jersey bridge approach and the bridge.
The Delaware Water Gap segment ends at the 22-minute, 53-second mark.
Milford-Montague Toll Bridge
Dedicated and opened: Dec. 30, 1953. This was the fifth of the Commission’s eight toll bridges to be constructed. This is the Commission’s highest bridge. Its height was determined in anticipation of a reservoir that would have resulted from the controversial Tocks Island Dam downstream; but the dam never was built. This also is the Commission’s only deck-truss bridge.
Original construction cost: $2,547,000
Bridge info: Four-span continuous steel deck-truss superstructure, approximately 1,150 feet long. The structure carries single lanes of traffic in each direction. A four-foot-wide galvanized steel plate walkway with an aluminum railing cantilevered off the bridge’s upstream truss was added in 1982. Bridge abutments are reinforced concrete with spread footings. Piers are granite-faced reinforced concrete. Two piers rest on steel and concrete caissons extended to bedrock. One pier is founded on bedrock. The bridge roadway is 106 feet above normal high water. If the Tocks Island Dam had been built, the water level would have been 58-feet higher.
PA abutment location: Dingman Township, PA.
NJ abutment location: Montague Township, N.J.
Roadway connections: Since its opening, the bridge has carried U.S. 206 between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where it connects with U.S. 209. U.S. 6, also called the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, is roughly a mile north in Milford Borough, PA.
Toll plaza: The original toll plaza had six toll booths and tolls were collected in both directions. Automatic token and coin collection machines were introduced in 1971. One-way toll collections were instituted in 1992. The current toll plaza was installed as part of a 2008-2009 rehabilitation project. It has three lanes and two toll booths. At all times, a minimum single toll booth is occupied by a toll collector to process cash payments.
First full year of traffic (1954): 585,412 vehicles; 1,604 AADT
2022 traffic: 2,536,644 vehicles; 6,950 AADT
Speed limit: 40 MPH
Last rehabilitation: 2009
Film footage depicts:
Begins with a panoramic shot of the bridge, beginning with the New Jersey abutment. A ground-level view of the bridge’s upstream side – without the current cantilevered walkway – is then shown. The ground is white from a recent snowfall. A photographer stands behind an unidentified man unrolling a ceremonial ribbon across the bridge’s roadway. Attendees for the bridge opening ceremony are seen. Commission Chairman Alexander Miller jots notes on an apparent event program and talks with an unidentified man before introductions of various unidentified dignitaries. Several men are shown speaking into a microphone before Chairman Miller makes remarks, followed by three more speakers. Chairman Miller then cuts the ceremonial ribbon. Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police lead a procession of cars through the toll plaza in the New Jersey’s bound direction. The film then proceeds to a dedication dinner at the Tom Quick Inn in Milford. Men in suits and ties and an occasional woman stream into the inn’s dining room. Chairman Miller, in a double-breasted suit, enters before shaking hands and speaking with dignitaries. A crowded head table is shown before ensuing footage of the diners conversing or eating. A gift of some sort is handed to Chairman Miller before speechmaking at the dinner. The segment ends with final views of the bridge.
The Milford-Montague segment ends at the 31-minute, 32 -second mark.
(NOTE: Individuals who can identify anyone shown in the film are urged to contact Commission Executive Director of Communications Joe Donnelly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 267-394-6560.)