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Shawville Bridge

Shawville Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 14, 2008

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Shawville Highway (PA-970) Over West Branch Susquehanna River
Location
Shawville: Clearfield County, Pennsylvania: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1937 By Builder/Contractor: Bethlehem Steel Company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Engineer/Design: Pennsylvania State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1972
Main Span Length
163 Feet (50 Meters)
Structure Length
340 Feet (104 Meters)
Roadway Width
20 Feet (6.1 Meters)
Spans
2 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
17097001120817

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

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

This bridge is a great example of one of the varieties of Pennsylvania's beautiful state standard plan truss bridges, as a two-span structure with original lattice railings and a heavy sixty degree skew. The bridge was built in 1937. The fabricator for the bridge was the Bethlehem Steel Company's Pottstown Works. C. G. Thompson was the on-site contractor for the bridge.

Located next to a power plant, the bridge carries a large volume of truck traffic, and PennDOT appears to want to demolish and replace this historic bridge. PennDOT will likely ignore such preservation alternatives to demolition such as leaving the historic bridge standing next to a new bridge which will likely be on a new alignment anyway.

An April 2009 inspection report for the bridge shows that there are problems with the bridge that show both a lack of proper bridge maintenance and care and a need for repair. Particularly, there is section loss and deterioration on the lower portion of the truss, including bottom chord and bottom chord connections. However the report also mentions that most of the deterioration is limited to this lower area. The majority of the trusses which are above the roadway are in much better condition. In fact the report describes the top chord connection gusset places as good. PennDOT will likely be quick to point out the poor lower chord condition as they plan to demolish and replace this bridge, but it is unlikely that these many good portions of the truss will not be highlighted, misleading the public into thinking the bridge cannot be easily rehabilitated. In truth, the inspection report combined with observation of successful preservation in other states suggests that this bridge could be rehabilitated for continued vehicular use. However, at the very least it at least shows that there is sufficient bridge material remaining that the bridge could be left standing next to its replacement for its historic value, and might further be preserved for non-motorized use.

It is worth noting that the majority of the bridge's deterioration is the result of PennDOT's apparent dual inability to keep the bridge properly painted, and also  to use non-corrosive de-icing chemicals and traction-increasing materials in the wintertime. The bridge was last painted in 1970! That was 40 years ago! Why should historians pay the price for PennDOT's lack of maintenance and watch so many historic bridges in Pennsylvania get demolished one after another?

This bridge is a state standard plan truss bridge. The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory dismissed nearly all state standard plan truss bridges as not historic and not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, regardless of integrity, size, or construction date. Given the rate of demolition and reduction of surviving examples of this bridge type, HistoricBridges.org strongly disagrees with this finding. It is outdated and further disproved by the fact that other states and other historic resource consultants found state standard truss bridges eligible in other states. The Pennsylvania historic bridge inventory operates on the philosophy that historic significant arises only from innovative, prototypical engineering, and that significance does not arise from good representative examples of structures from a period in history. This appears to go against the philosophy of the National Register of Historic Places which has accepted structures from both catagories in other states. The information below from the Historic Bridge Inventory is provided for structure information and reference only. HistoricBridges.org does not agree with the findings of the below historic bridge assessment.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The 1937, skewed, 2 span, 340'-long, rivet-connected Pratt thru truss bridge is supported on concrete abutments with flared wingwalls and a concrete pier. The upper chords, lower chords, and verticals in the end panels are built up. The diagonals and other verticals are rolled I sections. It is an undistinguished example of a state highway department standard design, rivet-connected truss bridges that were used with great frequency beginning in the 1920s. It has no innovative or distinctive details, and it is not historically or technologically distinguished by its setting or context. More than 350 Pratt truss bridges from the 1870s to the 1950s have been identified, with approximately 140 of that number standardized examples from after 1925.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries a 2 lane road and 1 sidewalk over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at the intersection of SR 970 and SR 879. Crossing the river just west of the bridge is a Conrail (former NY Central) deck girder bridge. A large power plant is at the southwest quadrant. At the east quadrants are a convenience store and a vacant lot The modern setting does not have historic district potential.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Shawville Bridge

 
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Maps and Links: Shawville Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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