Kunkle Bridge on Petersburg Road in South Middleton Township will be closed Wednesday until spring 2021 when construction of a new bridge is completed, Cumberland County officials announced Tuesday.
The county said in a news release that an annual inspection of the 117-year-old, single-lane bridge revealed structural deficiencies that would require repair and reducing the weight to 3 tons for the bridge to remain open to traffic. The county opted to close the bridge instead.
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“We are closing the bridge to protect public safety and avoid ongoing deterioration, especially from overweight vehicles that are illegally traversing the bridge by not abiding by the weight restrictions,” said Kirk Stoner, director of planning. “The bridge was originally slated to close in spring of 2020 when construction of the new bridge would begin.”
Kunkle Bridge carries Petersburg Road over the Yellow Breeches Creek and is used by nearly 700 vehicles daily, the county said. The replacement project is part of the county’s Bridge Capital Improvement Plan.
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In June, the county cut the weight limit on Kunkle Bridge amid further fears about the aging span’s structural integrity. Signs were posted on the county-owned bridge then informing motorists of a new 5-ton weight limit.
In May 2018, the county imposed a 10-ton weight limit; prior to that, the bridge was rated at 14 tons for single-unit vehicles and 20 tons for combinations.
Construction of a Kunkle Bridge replacement will be tricky, Stoner said in June, given trout-related restrictions on disturbing the waters of the Yellow Breeches. Work is prohibited from March 1 to June 15, and again from Oct 1 to Dec. 31, leaving only small windows in which the bridge can be built.
Kunkle Bridge is one of a number of county-owned bridges that was identified several years ago as structurally deficient. This spurred the county to introduce a $5 per vehicle registration fee in 2015, under Pennsylvania Act 89 of 2013, to finance transportation infrastructure improvements.