York Town Square

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Susquehanna bridge makeover flowing along

This 2006 aerial photograph shows bridge supports running alongside Veterans Memorial Bridge, sometimes called the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. These piers supported three bridges over the Susquehanna River, including the famed covered bridge that Union militia burned in 1863 to stop the invading Confederate advance. The last bridge to use the empty piers was demolished for scrap in the 1960s. Three bridges used these supports. Background posts: Urban legend? The day a bulldozer sank from sight and Almost … a double deck bridge across the Susquehanna?.

Plans are moving ahead for rehabbing Veterans Memorial Bridge spanning the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville.
That will include new lights above and below the bridge deck.
Which reminds me of a favorite observation about the bridge and the empty piers running to its north.
The 1930-era Veterans bridge supports line up directly with the bridge-less 1830s piers. As you drive over the 1970-era Wright’s Ferry Bridge and look south, you’ll see the exact match.
Accident or design?


This view of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge under construction was taken from a photo at John Wright restaurant in Wrightsville.
According to files at the York County Heritage Trust, builders engineered the matchup to
ease the flow of ice downstream.
Mammoth chunks of ice knocked out the first bridge over the Susquehanna in the 1830s.
Engineers wanted to ensure that didn’t happen twice.

An excerpted York Daily Record story (12/12/07) on the bridge rehab project follows:
Plans to restore the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River to its 1930s historic appearance moved forward this month as supporters secured enough money for the design phase of the project.
Rivertownes PA USA and the Lancaster-York Heritage Region received $160,000 from legislators, state and local agencies and a private donor for the next phase.
It will involve turning the concepts into concrete designs and creating construction documents, according to a feasibility study completed last year. This phase could take up to a year.
“We’re thrilled,” Claire Storm, president of Rivertownes PA USA, said of the latest developments. “We’ve been working on it for some time.”
The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is in Columbia’s historic district, the study states.
And officials hope that restoring the bridge to its former glory will draw people to Wrightsville and Columbia, said Jonathan Pinkerton, deputy director of the Lancaster-York Heritage Region.
After the design phase, officials plan to seek funding to do the work.
The first priority would be replacing the “cobra head” lights with replicas of the old lanterns, Storm said. The second would involve improving the plazas and the third would be lighting the underside of the bridge.
“If we can get funding to do the whole thing, we will,” Storm said.
By the numbers:
$2 million-plus: Cost of relighting the bridge, restoring the plazas and lighting the arches at night.
$2.5 million: Cost of the bridge when it was completed in 1930.
25 cents: The toll for each automobile until January 1943.
28: Number of arched spans the bridge has in the middle. (It also has some flat spans on the Wrightsville and Columbia sides.)
185 feet: Length of each arch.
100,000: Cubic yards of concrete used in building the bridge.
8 million: Pounds of reinforcing steel rods used in construction.
597,000: Number of asphalt blocks used to build it.
425 million pounds: The weight of the bridge.
7,400 feet: The length of the bridge.
6 feet: Width of the pedestrian sidewalk along the south side of the bridge.
38 feet: Width of the roadway, split between two lanes.