By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP —
Work on replacing an iconic Mercer County bridge is now under way.
Simply known as the “iron bridge,” the 133-foot long structure that spans Neshannock Creek in Springfield Township on Route 19 is structurally deficient. It’s one of thousands of bridges in Pennsylvania that shares that designation.
The 85-year-old steel-truss bridge is to be replaced with a composite steel plate girder bridge. By using modern construction materials and techniques the new bridge should stand for a century, PennDOT said Friday.
The new bridge will be built slightly upstream from the existing bridge, which will remain open until at least construction is completed in the fall.
Francis J. Palo Inc. of Clarion, was awarded construction of the new bridge at a cost of $2,943,017. Work is being paid with 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state funds, which is standard for bridge work.
Work will include replacement of the bridge, construction of paved approach roadways, and updated signs, drainage and guiderails. The overall project length is slightly over a half mile.
While the iron bridge doesn’t have the grandeur or age of the Brooklyn or Golden Gate bridges, for many county residents it holds fond memories of leisurely country drives, a bite to eat at the nearby Iron Bridge Inn restaurant or fishing near the structure along Neshannock Creek.
PennDOT determined the bridge didn’t meet any historical standards that might have saved the structure.
“The bridge has been altered many times over the years and is not a classic truss bridge,’’ said Jim Carroll, a PennDOT spokesman.
Records show major reconstruction work on the bridge, which handles 3,355 vehicles a day, was completed in 1982. Terms of the contract call for the bridge to become the property of the contractor.
“Typically, a contractor sells a bridge for scrap,’’ Carroll said. “Anyone wanting to save the bridge or a part of it would have to get in touch with the contractor.’’
Demolition of the existing bridge can’t begin until the new one is completed, he added. No detour of Route 19 traffic is anticipated. However, Route 19 will be restricted to single-lane traffic and controlled by temporary signals during the roadwork portion of the project.
There will be short-term detours required on two intersecting township roads – Smith Road and Creek Road – when they are tied in to the new roadway. Detours will be announced in advance of the road closures.