The possibility exists that funds originally earmarked to demolish the Craighead Bridge may instead be used to restore the 114-year-old span if South Middleton Township decides to take over its ownership.
The fate of the county-owned bridge may hinge on a presentation Kirk Stoner, Cumberland County director of planning, is scheduled to make before the township supervisors this Thursday. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the township building, 520 Park Drive.
Stoner said he plans to give specifics on what project funds could be used for. While the demolition has been estimated at $50,000, the consulting engineer on county bridges may have an estimate on the restoration work by Thursday.
The county commissioners last week put the demolition plan on hold after Stoner received conflicting reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
“Previously, we were told none of the money for the project could be used to restore the Craighead Bridge,” Stoner said. A different PennDOT official recently said some project funds may be eligible for bridge restoration.
Last July, the county offered the township ownership of the Craighead Bridge, but the supervisors were told by staff that saving the bridge could cost South Middleton thousands of dollars. The county was instructed to re-approach the township about ownership if there was a change in the funding.
Possible game changer?
One reason for the presentation Thursday is to determine if the supervisors have changed their opinion on ownership of the bridge now that project funds may be available for its restoration, Stoner said.
While Supervisor Tom Faley is receptive to the idea of township ownership, he also urged caution going forward.
“I don’t want to buy a problem for someone 10 years from now,” he said. “I would like to see it preserved, but I don’t know all the particulars. We need to nail it down before we take it.”
Fellow Supervisor Bryan Gembusia sees the news as a game changer for the township. Like Faley, however, he wants to see something in writing from the county and state before the township could agree to a change in ownership.
Both men would also like to see the bridge preserved.
“It’s a touch of history,” Faley said, noting that the bridge dates back to 1899 and is on the township logo. “It’s part of our heritage.”
Because the bridge is located near the Craighead House, Faley believes that whole area could be developed into a historic district with bridge traffic restricted to just pedestrians, bicyclists and fishermen.
Craighead Bridge carries Zion Road over the Yellow Breeches Creek and forms a T-intersection with Route 174. A traffic hazard is created anytime there are vehicles either waiting on the bridge to turn onto Route 174 or waiting on Route 174 to turn onto the bridge and continue on Zion Road.
The county has prepared a $2 million plan to build a two-lane bridge about 150 feet west of the current bridge. Zion Road will be realigned to line up with the new bridge and improve site distance where it intersects with Route 174.
Federal law requires the county to mitigate the project impact on local historical resources. The plan was to demolish the old bridge and construct a pull-off area along the realigned Zion Road overlooking the Craighead Bridge site with an interpretive plaque.
As further mitigation, the county planned to use money from the Craighead Bridge project to preserve three other metal truss bridges that carry only a third of the traffic volume and are functionally safer. They include the Hertzler Bridge over the Conodoguinet Creek in Lower Frankford Township, Bishop Bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek in Upper Allen Township and Green Lane Farm Bridge over the Yellow Breeches in Lower Allen Township.