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Dotter Road Bridge

Dotter Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: July 1, 2006

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Dotter Road (TR-522) Over Mill Creek
Rural: Venango County, Pennsylvania: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1885 By Builder/Contractor: Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
56.0 Feet (17.1 Meters)
Structure Length
62.0 Feet (18.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
15.7 Feet (4.79 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge has been relocated. This page and its photos and maps document the former location of the bridge.

Bridge Status: This bridge was replaced, with the historic bridge being relocated to private property in Texas.

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View The Section 106 Rehabilitation Feasibility Analysis For This Historic Bridge

View An Archived Discussion of This Bridge From Disappearing Bridges, a Website That No Longer Exists

This bridge is next to the Dotter Road Railroad Bridge. This bridge is the product of the Smith Bridge Company, and similarities in the design of this bridge can be seen in their TR-38 Bridge in Ohio. Note in particular the similarities in the built-up vertical member design, which is back-to-back channels with battens. This was a detail Smith Bridge Company used frequently. Other companies more often used v-lacing or lattice instead of battens on the vertical members. The Dotter Road Bridge is a four panel pin connected half-hip Pratt pony truss. The deck is wooden. An original pipe railing is present on the bridge, although it appears to have been cut off at the ends. The bridge retains original built-up floor beams. The bridge is significant as a remarkably unaltered example of a Smith Bridge Company bridge. It is also a rare example of a pin-connected truss that is skewed.

This bridge is located in a very scenic wooded area. Mill Creek is a small, stone-filled stream that runs into the Allegheny River a short distance west of this bridge.

In 2002, this bridge received a new wooden deck. The Oil Heritage Region apparently presented Venango County with an award for this preservation effort. The award may have been shortsighted. As of 2013, this bridge is slated for demolition and replacement. Given the highly rural nature of this road and the condition of the bridge, which really is not that bad, this is a bridge for which rehabilitation should be an obvious solution. A county that would demolish this bridge is undeserving of recognition for preservation effort.

In an effort to try to work with Pennsylvania and try to help the Commonwealth find cost-effective solutions that preserve historic bridges as functional crossings, HistoricBridges.org has participated in the Section 106 Review as a consulting party for a number of bridge projects in Pennsylvania in an attempt to find alternatives that would avoid adverse effects like demolition of historic bridges. Pennsylvania does not make it easy for consulting parties however. What passes as consideration of alternatives to adverse effect in Pennsylvania is what is called a "Rehabilitation Feasibility Analysis" and the only alternatives it considers is doing nothing and rehabilitation of the bridge for some weight limit which is often unrealistic and may not be truly needed for the roadway the bridge is on. The analysis of this rehabilitation is often conducted by a consulting engineer that is either completely inexperienced with the successful, comprehensive rehabilitation of historic bridges, or has been asked to skip over the facts to make rehabilitation seem less feasible than it really is. These are harsh statements, but there is no other way to explain why what is feasible in other states like New Jersey and Indiana is not feasible in Pennsylvania. The laws of physics are the same in Pennsylvania as in other states. A link to the analysis for the Dotter Road Bridge is provided at the top of this narrative. Consider problems with the analysis:

The hired consultant states the following:

The entire structure would need to be blast cleaned (existing members, if any) and painted. Bridge cleaning and painting is also an extremely expensive undertaking due to the required containment and disposal of the blast waste (hazardous or non-hazardous) and other current environmental protection requirements. Due to the crevices between the lower chords, cleaning and painting is difficult and crevice corrosion and rusting would be expected within five years of any rehabilitation.

The consultant fails to consider that a comprehensive alternative should involve carefully dismantling the truss and shipping the truss to a shop setting for restoration. This solution exposes all parts of the bridge for cleaning, repair and repainting. No crevices to worry about. It also avoids the costly containment for paint removal, since paint removal would occur in the shop, not over the waterway.

The hired consultant also states that added a crash-resistant guardrail would make the 15.7 foot roadway less than 14 feet wide. No consideration is given to two tube steel guardrail, which likely could be designed to take up less than seven inches of roadway width.

The hired consultant claims that to rehabilitate the bridge all but 16 bridge members would be replaced. This is absurd, given that the only serious problem noted with the bridge was 50% section loss for the eyebars at at the bottom chord connections. This level of section loss would be easy to correct via a pad welding process. Therefore, even the most deteriorated members on this bridge do not need to be replaced and can easily be repaired. The only way that so many members would need to be replaced is if someone was trying to make the bridge hold more weight than it was designed to hold when it was first built. To require that a historic bridge support more weight than its original design provided for is an unrealistic burden on historic bridges. It should be acknowledged that a historic bridge from 1885 may not have been originally built to current AASHTO standards. However, these bridges were often designed with enough load capacity to serve light vehicular traffic. Perhaps a real alternatives analysis would have also considered rehabilitating this bridge for a weight limit less than 15 tons. Chances are, given the rural nature of this bridge's location, that a lower weight limit would serve most vehicles without issue.

Finally, the hired consultant claims that the rehabilitated bridge would be more costly to maintain. A truss bridge that has been dismantled and comprehensively rehabilitated in a shop setting should offer no unusual maintenance costs. In fact, if the paint system is maintained with a touch-up completed to ensure that rust does not form, deterioration of the truss should not occur at all.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The ca. 1885, skewed, pin connected, single span, 62'-long, Pratt pony truss bridge is supported on ashlar abutments with wingwalls. The traditionally composed trusses have built up upper chords, end posts, and verticals. The lower chords and diagonals are eye bars. It was fabricated by the Smith Bridge Company, and the bridge is distinguished as an early and complete example of its type and design. There are 3 Smith Bridge Co. truss bridges in the county, and all are significant.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries 1 lane of an unimproved road over a stream in a sparsely developed, forested setting.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: Dotter Road Bridge


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Maps and Links: Dotter Road Bridge

This historic bridge has been relocated and is no longer at this location. See the main bridge page for a link to the new bridge location. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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