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Wanted: buyer for a bridge



Published: Sun, June 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The biggest expenses would be in dismantling, moving and refurbishing the span.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

GREENVILLE, Pa. -- The owners of an old bridge sitting in a narrow valley in Hempfield Township are looking for a new home for the span.

The state owns the antiquated steel truss structure and says it needs to be replaced and will soon be offered for sale.

The buyer can probably get it at a bargain-basement price, but there's a catch: The buyer also has to pay to have it dismantled, hauled to its new home and restored.

The 12-foot, 8-inch single-lane cartway and 9-ton load limit are no longer adequate to serve the community, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says the bridge will be replaced by a modern concrete structure in 2003 or 2004.

The bridge, built in 1898, carries Williamson Road traffic across the Little Shenango River on a 124-foot-long span.

It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and that means the state can't simply tear it down.

Over troubled waters: PennDOT must first try to sell it to someone who will save its historical properties. Failing that, the bridge will become the property of the contractor hired to build a new structure and will likely be cut up for scrap.

Pennsylvania has a lot of bridges built around that same time period, and it is gradually replacing them. The state periodically offers them for sale.

"It's a common practice for bridges that have historic properties," said Thomas Minnick, regional environmental manager for PennDOT.

Advertising for the sale of the Williamson Road Bridge should begin in the next six to 12 months, he said.

Selling old bridges isn't easy, said Kara Russell, architectural historian for PennDOT's Bureau of Environmental Quality office in Harrisburg.

"It's a very rare occurrence," she said, explaining it's difficult finding someone willing to refurbish and maintain the old structures.

PennDOT's Web site lists eight of them for sale, most in central Pennsylvania and most of them built in the 1890s.

The state was able to sell one bridge in Wanamakers, Pa., Lehigh County, two months ago to Central Pennsylvania College in Summerdale, just west of Harrisburg.

The price was $22, and it marked the first bridge sale in recent years, Russell said.

Todd Milano, Central Pennsylvania's president, said it will cost about $250,000 to refurbish and put the 92-foot steel truss bridge in the center of campus.

Bridging gaps: Plans are to make it a pedestrian bridge across a stream, linking a new academic building with the rest of the campus, he said.

"I saw the bridge as a wonderful symbol of what takes place at Central Pennsylvania College," he said.

"The Central Pennsylvania experience has been a bridge that transforms ambitious young adults into knowledgeable and productive professionals," he said.

The college offers education in information technology, health care, business administration and the legal field and has associate and bachelor degree programs.

"We have not sold any in our [northwestern Pennsylvania] district to date," said Minnick, noting there have been bridges put on the market and that PennDOT has received expressions of interest but no buyers have come forward.

Whoever buys the Williamson Road Bridge must sign a historical preservation covenant with the state promising not to destroy it, but to restore it.

The state did an archaeological check of the bridge site but found nothing of significance that would require a delay of the replacement project or relocation of the new bridge, said Jeanette Uhl, regional PennDOT project manager.




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