A plan to dismantle the Craighead Bridge has local historians wondering if only there was a way for the past and future spans to co-exist in South Middleton Township.
While historian Richard Tritt sees the need for a replacement bridge for safe vehicular traffic, he questioned why the existing single-lane bridge could not be restored for use by bicyclists, fishermen and hikers.
“We keep tearing down old things only to put up signs to say what used to be there,” Tritt said Tuesday. He wondered if there will come a time when there are more signs than historic structures.
The county-owned bridge carries Zion Road over the Yellow Breeches Creek and forms a T-intersection with Rt. 174. A traffic hazard is created anytime there are vehicles either waiting on the bridge to turn onto Rt. 174 or waiting on Rt. 174 to turn onto the bridge and continue on Zion Road.
Fellow historian Tom Benjey said it is unfortunate federal money tied to this project would only allow for the destruction of the old Craighead Bridge instead of its restoration.
First petitioned by township residents in 1857, the single-lane steel truss bridge was constructed in 1899 by the Pittsburgh Iron Bridge Company for $4,100, Tritt said. He added not only is Craighead Bridge part of local history, it appears on the official township logo.
The two men were among the local residents who reviewed plans for the $2 million project to build a two-lane bridge about 150 feet west of the current bridge that carries Zion Road over the Yellow Breeches Creek.
The plan calls for Zion Road to be realigned to the northwest to line up with the new bridge and improve site distance where it intersects with state Rt. 174.
The steel truss and deck of the old Craighead Bridge will be removed while the stone foundations will remain. The existing portion of Zion Road will be vacated and converted into a private access road for use by Wesley Tate who owns property on the east side of the road near the old bridge.
Federal law requires the county to mitigate the project impact on local historical resources, said Chris Bauer, director of transportation for Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc., consulting engineer for the county bridge capital improvement program.
He explained how the plan calls for a pull-off area to be constructed along the realigned Zion Road overlooking the Craighead Bridge site. This area would include an interpretive plaque complete with a photograph of the old bridge and details on some of its history, Bauer said.
As further mitigation, the county plans 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, Bauer said. 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.
The law also requires the county to mitigate project impact on the scenic Yellow Breeches waterway, said Brian Emberg, senior vice-president for HRG. He explained how this will be done by incorporating a stone treatment to the new bridge substructure and outside face of the parapets to match the substructure stone of the old bridge.
Final design work on this project could start in May 2014 with completion expected a year later in July 2015.
Federal funds will account for 80 percent of the project costs, with 15 percent coming from the state and 5 percent from the county.
The county will continue to inspect the Craighead Bridge every six months to determine whether the span should stay in use, County Planning Director Kirk Stoner said. Up to 2,000 vehicles pass over the bridge daily.