Covered bridge gets 6-month reprieve
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS A PennDOT engineer, left; bridge inspector Kevin Gross, center, and Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein inspect the steel grid roadway of Little Gap Bridge.
The Little Gap Covered Bridge will remain open for six months.
The commissioners said last month after an inspection that the bridge would be closed indefinitely.
During this period, the commissioners will meet with PennDOT to determine what regulations apply, will have county engineer Ron Tirpak come up with a proposed design, and will work with the state and local parties to develop a financing plan.
The 1850s-era Little Gap Covered Bridge, which runs across the Aquashicola Creek not only has historic value, but it serves as a gateway to the Blue Mountain Resort and for local commuters and shoppers.
The bridge caught the attention of Little Gap resident and state Rep. Doyle Heffley.
Last week, Heffley, state Sen. John Yudichak, Carbon County commissioners, Tirpak, Lower Towamensing supervisors, bridge inspector Kevin Gross, representatives from PennDOT, and Barbara Green, president of Blue Mountain Resort, met at the Little Gap Covered Bridge on Covered Bridge Road.
Gross said the steel beam and deck structure installed in 1987 had deteriorated.
"Ten or more bars in a row have holes in them. They are probably a foot long by three or four inches high, and the bar itself is only six inches high. Most of the bar is completely deteriorated," Gross said.
"In a lot of places, the secondary bars ... if you hit them with a hammer, they just disintegrate."
"Let's have a show of hands who believes that the bridge should be repaired and stay open?" asked Supervisor Ronald Walbert.
Everyone raised their hands.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said a preliminary estimate for rehabbing the deck to its current specifications was received at $300,000.
During the discussions, several alternatives were considered. A complete reconstruction of the bridge was mentioned but officials said it was likely to trigger environmental and engineering studies that could take years to complete and could raise the project cost into the $6 million range way beyond what the county is able to afford and run the risk of not being approved.
They agreed the best direction would be to repair the bridge with the installation of new decking. Tirpak suggested using galvanized steel for improved corrosion resistance or capping the steel grid with concrete to prevent water from rusting the steel.
Commissioner Bill O'Gurek suggested using Act 44 and Liquid Fuels funds to help finance the project, although he was hoping that other funding sources could be made available and that the county's share could be held to one-third or one-half of the total amount.
Green, whose Blue Mountain Resort had opened a road to a new water park earlier that day, said the bridge was the gateway to the sports complex for 90 percent of her guests.
She also referred to the overhead beams that were installed to limit the height of vehicles crossing the bridge to 10 feet, 6 inches, saying that they detracted from the bridge's historic appearance, and that their placement so close to the bridge gave drivers of noncompliant vehicles, such as tractor trailers, little time and room to turn around.