York Town Square

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Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge celebrates quiet birthday

The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge spanning the Susquehanna River quietly passed its 75th anniversary on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Many stories surround the 7,500-foot-long structure, in secondary use since construction of the Wright’s Ferry Bridge in 1972.

But first its vital statistics:

— Width of roadway: 38 feet.
— Width of sidewalk: 6 feet.
— Number of arch spans: 28.
— Number of girder spans: 20.
— Total weight of structure: 425 million pounds.
— Toll: 25 cents a car but no toll for walkers.
— Cost: York and Lancaster counties built the bridge for $3 million. The tolls came off the bridge on Jan. 31, 1943, when the bond issue was retired.

Mahlon Haines headlines a popular story connected with the bridge, the fifth of six such structures to cross the river at Wrightsville.
“Shoe Wizard” Haines, owner of a successful chain of shoe stores, found himself in trouble after obtaining the status as the last motorist to pay a toll. His son, Stanley, was the first to cross for free.
All this happened amidst World War II rationing, and the government folks who monitored such things cited the duo for breaking laws then in place.
Mahlon Haines argued that he was on a business trip, legal under rationing guidelines.
Next comes the urban legend that someone fell into concrete poured for a bridge support, and his body was never retrieved.
One longtime Wrightsville resident recently quipped that when he first came to town, people tried to persuade him that a shoe mark could be seen in one of the bridge supports.

All this makes the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge overlooked county treasure No. 9 (See earlier posts on the Little Courthouse, Prospect Hill Cemetery, War Mothers Memorial, USO at York County Academy’s former gymnasium, York’s Salem Square soldiers monument, the Cookes House, York’s rowhouses and Wrightsville’s monuments.)