At first glance this appears to be an attractive standard plan 1930s truss in Pennsylvania. For the most part it is, however unlike most other bridges from this period in the state which utilize the Pratt or Parker truss configurations, this bridge is a Baltimore. This gives this bridge more significance than other bridges from the period, since it is a variation from the most commonly employed standard plans of the period. Extensive lattice and v-lacing on the built-up beams of this bridge add greatly to the high level of aesthetic value this bridge enjoys.
The bridge includes a 60 foot through girder approach spans. The bridge also has a slight 1.5% grade. The bridge is skewed. There is eighteen feet between the bottom of the portal bracing and the deck.
The bridge sits at a historical crossing, and is the fourth bridge at the site. The first bridge here was built in 1821-1823 and was a 300 foot arch of unknown material, but formed the longest single arch span in the United States when built. It was a toll bridge until 1865. The crossing and the formers bridges were considered noteworthy enough that a large plaque was erected on this bridge when it was built to commemorate the highways and previous bridges. The crossing was originally the Northern Turnpike which was later called the William Penn Highway, which later became US-22, which is today carried on a nearby alignment.
The bridge was fabricated by the Rankin Works of the McClintic-Marshall Company, a Pittsburgh company. The bridge was erected by on-site contractors Freeland McHale and PA. Pennsylvania State Highway Department provided the design engineering and plans for the bridge.
This bridge also enjoys a reduced traffic load, since the new Blairsville Bridge, dating to 1951, passes by to the north of this bridge. A dam that was constructed in the region appears to sometimes cause water to fill in this area which now acts as a reservoir of sorts. In 2010, waters came up to the portal of the bridge (photos are available in the gallery). However, the massive bridge combined with what appeared to be slow flow rate of water meant that little hazard was posed to the bridge, and with a high level modern bridge nearby, traffic had a convenient alternate route. Thus, the preservation of the Old Blairsville Bridge should be considered feasible.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The skewed, 2-span, 358'-long bridge with a 283' long riveted Baltimore thru truss main span and a thru girder approach span is supported on concrete abutments with wingwalls and a concrete pier. All members of the high capacity truss are built up. The panels are subdivided with a substrut and a hanger to pick up the intermediate floor beam. Although a large heavy truss, the bridge has no innovative or distinctive details. It is an example of a technology that is well represented in the western part of the state with its long river crossings. It is reflective of common period technology and is not historically or technologically significant. The plaque states that the first bridge at this crossing was placed in 1823. This is the fourth bridge.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The bridge carries a 2 lane street over two active Conrail railroad tracks in Blairsville in a setting that is a mix of parking lots, modern buildings and the 1907 freight depot. The SHPO has determined that Blairsville is not a potential historic district. The railroad line crossed is the former Western Pennsylvania line the Pennsylvania RR improved as a low grade freight route. It is not a significant line. It is operated by Conrail.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No
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