This bridge is an extremely rare because of its design, since Pin-connected Baltimore highway truss bridges are all but unheard of on today's roads, and in addition as an 1894 structure this bridge is an older, pre-1900 example. Bridges of this design were more typically employed on railroads, and even there are uncommon. This bridge is an impressive example of its kind, and is made even more extraordinary by the presence of pony truss approach spans. Bridges that include a combination of through and pony truss spans are always more interesting to look at, and the variety of design can only add to the historic significance. Visually, this bridge makes good use of the approach spans; the low profile of the 48 foot pony trusses on either end of the bridge lead up to the tall and bold main span, creating a symmetrical and pleasing overall bridge appearance. The bridge retains builder plaques crediting Nelson and Buchanan, a prolific bridge company who often shared a working relationship with Pittsburgh Bridge Company. Of the many remaining bridges built by either Nelson and Buchanan alone or in their capacity as agents for Pittsburgh Bridge Company, the Cunningham Road Bridge is perhaps one of their rarest remaining designs, and also one of the largest remaining examples of their work.
As such, this bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main alterations on the bridge are for the most part reversible if the bridge were restored and include a metal grate deck, wire cables added alongside the diagonals, channels welded to the floorbeams, as well as some clamps on the bottom chord.
The Historic Bridge Inventory comments make it sound like the bridge is in horrible condition and cannot be restored. Do not be misled. It simply means more work needs to be done to restore the bridge, but work of this type has been done successfully before. The inventory mentions that some floorbeams exhibit complete section loss. Similar conditions existed with the Charlotte Highway Bridge in Michigan, whose floorbeams had visible holes in them. Rather than destroy the whole bridge, or even replace the floorbeams with something modern, the Charlotte Highway Bridge's built-up floorbeams were precisely replicated under the direction of truss bridge restoration expert Vern Mesler who made sure that even rivets were used instead of modern bolts in the replication. Moreover it is worth noting that the flooring system of a truss bridge is typically the most troubled area with an old historic bridge in need of restoration, so the Cunningham Road Bridge really does not present any new or unusual challenges or barriers to preservation. Many preservation projects do simply replace the flooring systems with something modern, representing a major alteration, but perhaps an acceptable compromise to ensure that the trusses of the bridge are not sent to the dumpster in favor of an ugly new bridge in its place. Regardless of which decisions might be considered for a restoration project, it is essential that restoration is scheduled for this bridge, and the current demolition plans instead halted immediately.
The fact that the Cunningham Road Bridge is near Gettysburg should be a good reason to give the bridge extra preservation priority. While the Cunningham Road Bridge is not related to the Civil War and Gettysburg, the fact that the city is a destination for many with an appreciation for history makes it seem likely that a restored truss bridge might be more appreciated here than it might elsewhere, and therefore money spent on restoration would be money well spent.
Instead however, PennDOT appears to be doing what it does with nearly all of its aging historic metal truss bridges, which is to make no genuine commitment to consider preservation and involve the public, then offer the bridge to third parties for relocation, see that nobody has the money, and demolish and replace the beautiful historic bridge with an ugly slab of steel and concrete.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of BridgeThe NR-listed, three-span bridge built in 1894 consists of a pin-connected Baltimore thru truss flanked by two pin-connected Pratt pony trusses. According to inspection reports, the west-end pony truss was hit by a garbage truck ca. 1989, resulting in loss of the inclined end post and end panel chords and diagonals of the downstream truss line. The lost members were replaced with built-up welded members. The eye bar diagonals of the thru truss have been doubled-up with wire ropes as a strengthening measure. Bolted clamps have been added to some of the thru truss lower panel points. Bridge members are rusted throughout, with some floorbeams and stringers exhibiting complete section loss.
Discussion of Surrounding AreaThe bridge carries a single lane of traffic over a stream in a rural setting of active farms. Fields and woods are to all four quadrants.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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