Following four years of detours, the new iteration of the Craighead Bridge in South Middleton Township is set to open on Oct. 5, according to Cumberland County officials.
Traffic flow is expected to see a significant improvement with the wider, two-lane bridge as well as an improved intersection at Zion Road and Old York Road (Route 174).
“We’ve flared the intersection point with Route 174 and improved the sight distance,” Cumberland County Planning Director Kirk Stoner said. “It’s much more driver-friendly than what was there.”
The new span, which carries Zion Road over the Yellow Breeches Creek, was built adjacent to the old Craighead Bridge, which still stands. The old single-lane span, however, was closed in 2013 after the county found structural deficiencies in the trusses, which date back to 1899.
The county planned to demolish the old bridge if an alternative use could not be found. Earlier this year, a company called Workin’ Bridges, affiliated with the nonprofit North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, purchased the span for $1 and plans to restore it as a historic site.
The closure of Craighead Bridge in 2013 was followed in 2015 by the start of the county’s large-scale infrastructure program to refurbish or replace all 28 county-owned bridges.
“The Craighead project let us know that we needed to get out ahead of this, otherwise we would be having the same issue with other bridges in the years to come,” Stoner said.
The county commissioners established a $5 per vehicle registration fee — which generates about $1.1 million per year — to finance the bridge program, although state and federal funds are the major contributor. Out of the $2.6 million total for Craighead Bridge, 80 percent was covered by federal grants, 15 percent by the state, including gas tax and Marcellus shale appropriations, and 5 percent out of the county’s vehicle registration fund.
Orr’s Bridge in Hampden Township and Wolf Bridge in Middlesex Township are scheduled to be rebuilt in 2018.