Work on the covered bridge in Lower Towamensing Township has been approved by Carbon County officials.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board voted unanimously to ratify the proposal by Home Solutions Partners of Palmerton for repairs at the covered bridge in the Little Gap section as recommended by Ronald Tirpak, the county's engineer.
The cost to repair both entrances, which were damaged when two vehicles too high for the bridge traveled through the structure last month, is expected to be $7,240.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, explained that both the north and south entrances were damaged during the incidents.
Repairs include on the north entrance: straighten the cross bar support arms; paint cross bars and install them; touch up paint on the entire north end safety bars and posts; and attach a clearance sign at the proper height.
Work on the south end includes: remove both piers and dispose of them; excavate, form and pour two concrete bases; embed 6x6 sleeves in the concrete in both piers; remove damaged section of the support posts, balance will be inserted in the sleeves and welded; install new clearance bars with all priming and painting of bars to be completed off-site; and attach clearance sign at the proper height.
Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said that he went along with Tirpak's recommendation this time, but added that if this happens again, he plans to suggest 6x6 steel I-beams be installed.
"Anytime you are driving a commercial vehicle, you are supposed to know the weight and height of the vehicle," he said. "The I-beam would stop them dead in their tracks. You're not going to damage our bridge again."
Gerhard noted that the bridge getting damaged has been an ongoing problem over the last few years and needs to be addressed and a permanent solution reached.
When the I-beams were suggested this time, Tirpak said that they would be a liability for the county.
Nothstein agreed with Gerhard, saying the county needs to put something there that is going to stop vehicles if they attempt to go through the bridge and are too tall.
He added that the Lehighton state police are handling the investigations on the incidents and that the county plans to hold the drivers responsible for paying for the damage they caused.
Attempts to gather details from the Lehighton State Police on the incidents were unsuccessful as of press time.
In other matters, the commissioners received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation which determined that the proposed Route 903 bridge project will have an adverse effect on the National Register-listed Carbon County section of the Lehigh Canal.
Commissioner William O'Gurek explained that there are some remnants of the old canal locks near the river, which have been taken into consideration during the planning phase of the bridge's design and will be discussed with the company who submits the winning bid for the construction project.
Nothstein said that everything appears to be on track for the project to begin either the end of this year or early next year.
Gerhard added that the new bridge can't come soon enough.