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Susquehanna Trail Bridge

Ganoga Bridge

Susquehanna Trail Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: May 31, 2010

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Susquehanna Trail (PA-295) Over Big Conewago Creek
Location
Rural: York County, Pennsylvania: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1926 By Builder/Contractor: G. A. and F.M. Wagman Company of York, Pennsylvania and Engineer/Design: A. P. Dise

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
74.2 Feet (22.62 Meters)
Structure Length
419 Feet (127.71 Meters)
Roadway Width
24 Feet (7.32 Meters)
Spans
5 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
66029500601866

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

Bridge Status: Demolished and replaced.

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

View PennDOT Report Describing The Project To Replace and Demolish This Historic Bridge

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) chose to demolish and replace this attractive and unusual bridge, an uncommon (if not rare) example of a ribbed arch bridge, which was also noted for its unusually shaped arches which come to a slight point at the center of each span. The bridge was apparently designed by A. P. Dise, County engineer and constructed by G. A. & F.M. Wagman Company. The bridge retained excellent historic integrity with original railings intact as well as several decorative light standards. The bridge appeared to incorporate part of some stone abutments from a previous structure. A square hole was observed in this stone work. The purpose of the hole is unknown. Sometimes however, holes in stone abutments indicate that the previous structure was a Burr Arch covered bridge. It is not known if that is the case here.

Although listed as ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places, HistoricBridges.org believes this bridge could have and should have been evaluated as eligible for the National Register as an unaltered and excellent representative example of a ribbed concrete arch bridge, and a multiple span example of decent length to boot. Ribbed concrete arch bridges appear to be uncommon in Pennsylvania. The unusual shape of the arches, which come to a slight point at the center, is also an unusual detail, adding to its significance. The bridge may have been common and ineligible for the National Register when the historic bridge inventory was conducted, but today the inventory is outdated, and PennDOT managed updates to the inventory have failed to adequately account for the staggering number of bridges lost to demolition, which have greatly increased the rarity of surviving bridges. The Mulberry Street Viaduct that the Historic Bridge Inventory mentions is indeed far more significant that this bridge, but why should there be a "limit 1" on number of eligible ribbed arch bridges? Also, the Susquehanna Trail Bridge actually is less altered than the Mulberry Street Viaduct.

HistoricBridges.org believes the replacement of this bridge was not a good choice and that the bridge could have and should have been rehabilitated for continued vehicular use for less than the cost of replacement. The National Bridge Inventory's structural ratings and sufficiency ratings are usually overly pessimistic about the condition of historic bridges. However, this bridge was in such decent shape that even the National Bridge Inventory supported a rehabilitation argument. The bridge had National Bridge Inventory structural ratings of Superstructure: Poor (4) Substructure: Poor (4) and Deck: Poor (4). Ratings of Poor indicate a bridge for which rehabilitation is likely feasible and usually even economical. The Sufficiency Rating was 48.6%. 48.6% by the way is less than two percentage points below the minimum sufficiency rating that qualifies a bridge for federal replacement funds. In other words, this barely qualified to be replaced under federal aid guidelines. Need more proof the bridge did not need to be replaced? Even the appraisal ratings for the bridge, which rarely give favorable reviews for a historic bridge ranged from acceptable to good: The appraisal ratings for the deck geometry and the structural appraisal ratings both were listed as "Meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is." and even the roadway alignment was listed as "Equal to present desirable criteria." There also were no scour issues with the substructure, which was listed as "Bridge foundations determined to be stable for assessed or calculated scour condition." Even people who do not care about historic bridges should be frustrated with this replacement project since it appears significant tax dollars were spent on a replacement that was not needed. There are surely other roads and bridges elsewhere in the Commonwealth that needed attention more than this bridge did.

Further, the bridge was replaced with no attempts to extend the life of the bridge throughout its history. The National Bridge Inventory did not show a rehabilitation date for the bridge. A bridge should be rehabilitated at least once over the course of its life before it is replaced.

Aside from the feasibility of rehabilitating the bridge for continued vehicular use, this bridge was also a victim of two problems that occur repeatedly with historic bridges in Pennsylvania, problems which have helped lead Pennsylvania to having the worst historic bridge preservation track record in the country. The two problems including finding bridges with clear evidence of historic value to be ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and not leaving a historic bridge standing (either for pedestrian use or completely abandoned and closed) next to its replacement, the replacement bridge being on a new alignment and out of the way of the historic bridge.

This bridge's replacement structure is an ugly slab of concrete, which was built on a slightly different alignment. As such, the historic bridge was not in the way of its replacement. PennDOT chose to demolish the bridge just to destroy this beautiful historic bridge, not to accomplish any functional goal. This bridge was not in critical condition or in danger of collapse, indeed it barely qualified for federal replacement funds. Moreover, with no vehicular traffic on it, and more importantly, no more deicing salt applied to its deck in the winter, this bridge likely would have stood for decades if left standing, either abandoned and closed, or left open for non-motorized use with no work required. There would essentially be no cost associated with this preservation alternative, plus the cost of demolition could have been saved.

HistoricBridges.org is always willing to support and assist both individuals and agencies in developing feasible preservation solutions for historic bridges. HistoricBridges.org is even hopeful that PennDOT will eventually have a change of heart and begin to more seriously consider and undertake preservation projects in Pennsylvania. However, currently, it seems that for every historic bridge in Pennsylvania, there is an excuse for why it cannot be preserved. HistoricBridges.org understands that not every historic bridge can be preserved, or in many cases a compromise solution might be needed. However, at the same time, there certainly are many more bridges that can be preserved than is currently being done. The preservation of every historic bridge in the Commonwealth cannot be impossible. Pennsylvania is not so different from other states which have preserved far more historic bridges. In order to prevent Pennsylvania from becoming a state devoid of historic bridges, PennDOT needs to change and meet preservationists half way and there needs to be a willingness to change and move out of the comfort zone. Compromise is a two-way experience.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The 5 span, 419'-long reinforced concrete closed spandrel 4-ribbed arch bridge built in 1926 has standard concrete balustrades and it is supported on horizontally scored concrete piers and abutments. The bridge is accented with plain pilasters at each pier which extend upward to form balustrade posts topped by concrete light standards. Reinforced concrete arch bridges began appearing in numbers in Pennsylvania during the first decade of the 20th century, and by the early 1910s they were ubiquitous. The use of ribs is a savings of material but it requires extra formwork. An early example of a closed spandrel ribbed arch bridge is the 1907-1909 Mulberry St. viaduct in Harrisburg (22301200800233). By 1926, the construction of a ribbed closed spandrel arch bridge was not historically or technologically significant. The bridge is not distinguished by its setting or context.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries a 2 lane road over a stream in a forested setting with scattered 20th-century residences. The setting does not have the cohesiveness or integrity of a historic district.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Susquehanna Trail Bridge

 
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Maps and Links: Susquehanna Trail Bridge

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

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):
40.100110,-76.764160

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