Work continues on old stone bridge

April 10, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

State transportation department workers Tuesday were building the scaffold they will use to repair the section of a historic 150-year-old stone arch bridge over the Conococheague Creek that collapsed last week.

The bridge, on Social Island Road about two miles west of U.S. 11, will be closed for about two months during repairs, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials said.

Pennsylvania State Police and PennDOT inspectors said they did not know for sure what caused part of the stone wall on the southwest side of the bridge to collapse. Residents who live near the double arch bridge claim it was struck by a passing truck.


"We think it was hit, but we can't prove it. We're just going to fix it and be done with it," said William McDowell, assistant manager of PennDOT's Franklin County maintenance garage. McDowell was supervising the work at the bridge Tuesday.

Workers have already recovered the original stones from the creek and piled them up on the deck. They will be used again.

Glenn Rowe II, PennDOT's bridge foreman for the county, will oversee the work. "He has expertise in these old stone bridges," McDowell said of Rowe.

Asked if the collapse affected the safety of the bridge, McDowell replied: "The major strength in these old stone bridges is in the arches."

The state has no plans to replace the bridge, said Michael Crochunis, PennDOT spokesman in Harrisburg, Pa.

None of the other five state-owned, stone-arch bridges in Franklin County carry the traffic like the one on Social Island Road, Crochunis said. PennDOT estimates that 2,200 vehicles a day cross the span, many of them heavy trucks.

Crochunis said placing a load limit on the bridge would be considered if officials in Guilford and Hamilton townships request one and if engineers think one is warranted.

Conococheague Creek separates the townships.

Samantha Frey lives in a 141-year-old brick farmhouse on the southeast approach to the bridge. She said the bridge is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Bridges.

Frey has been trying unsuccessfully to get weight limits on the single-lane bridge as well as a lower speed limit on Social Island Road. She said she also wants blinking yellow lights at each approach warning motorists to yield to oncoming drivers.

Last summer she called State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, and a representative of State Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Shippensburg, to the bridge to lobby for her cause.

Fleagle said Tuesday the only answer is a replacement bridge upstream while preserving the stone bridge. He said he has been intensifying his lobbying efforts for a new bridge since last week's collapse.

He said a new bridge is needed for safety.

"Traffic will continue to increase on Social Island Road and that will just exacerbate the safety problems," he said. "The approaches are difficult and unsafe. Accidents there will just continue."

Detour signs re-route traffic off Social Island Road onto Lehman Road, then Guitner Road and eventually over to Pa. 995.

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