A historic covered bridge in Lower Towamensing Township, still recovering from damages incurred in June when a commercial truck was driven through it, has suffered another hit from Hurricane Lee.
The storm damage added over $7,000 to the original $33,089 cost of fixing the 1860s-era bridge, which spans the Buckwha Creek. The structure is the last covered bridge in Carbon County open to traffic.
County commissioners on Thursday agreed to pay the extra expense, which will replace 25 feet of siding on the downstream side of the bridge, cut off the bottom of storm damaged siding from both sides of the bridge to prevent further water damage – "the water keeps catching the boards," said Commissioner Wayne Nothstein – and removes the tangle of tree limbs overhanging the span.
The bridge suffered the first of the one-two punch in June when Joseph Chiariello of Albrightsville drove a large commercial truck through it. The county's insurance provider, PCoRP, intends to pursue legal action against Chiariello to recover the costs of the repairs, said commissioners' Chairman William O'Gurek.
Whether Chiariello will be charged for his actions remains unclear.
Commissioners on Aug. 26 awarded the job of repairing the initial damage to the bridge to Home Solutions Partners of Palmerton, which bid $33,089 for the work. The company has since started the repairs.
Then last week, Hurricane Lee dumped several inches of rain in the area, causing the creek to rise and water to rush. The force of the flow split the siding and tore it away from the bridge, O'Gurek said.
On Thursday, commissioners approved an additional $7,807 to that contract to pay for those damages. The bulk of the expense, $4,980, will pay to replace 25 feet of siding. Another $2,130 will pay to cut off the bottom foot of overhang, and $697 will be used for taking down the tree limbs.
Commissioner Charles Getz questioned the cost of the siding, but Nothstein said the type of wood needed was not available locally, and had to be purchased from a specialty company.
The county in 2008 began repairing the bridge. The recent damages have forced its closure.