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Carbon officials discuss covered bridge damage

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    Carbon County maintenance looks at the damage to a steel headache bar that was damaged at the entrance to the covered bridge on Little Gap Road in Lower Towamensing Township. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published November 03. 2017 12:32PM

The headache bars at the entrance to the covered bridge in Lower Towamensing Township are doing their job, but a recent incident is causing Carbon County some pain.

On Thursday, the commissioners spoke about an incident on Oct. 30 at the bridge on Little Gap Road, causing approximately $1,000 in damage to one of the two steel height restriction headache bars.

“The headache bar was hit, severely damaged, but it did its job,” Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said.

He said the bar, which is intended to stop vehicles over 10 feet, 6 inches high from entering the covered bridge, prevented the person from entering the bridge, but now has to be repaired because of the speed the vehicle was traveling.

“It was hit so hard it spun (the steel headache bar) around, broke the chains and broke two out of three brackets,” Gerhard said.

Officials believe the driver responsible must have been traveling around 50 mph when the beam was hit.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said the bar is a couple hundred pounds and needs a lot of force to spin it around the top of the height restriction bars.

“It’s a shame that someone hit it so hard, so fast that it would wrap around the bar and the chains would snap,” he said, adding that the money to repair the beam will come from the county because the insurance deductible is $1,000. “I sure hope we find the person responsible.”

Gerhard said that there is a case open with the state police in Lehighton.

Nothstein said that if anyone witnessed the incident, they should call state police or the county to report it.

This is the second time in just under 18 months that the new bar was struck and damaged by a vehicle larger than the height restriction bars.

Last June, someone struck the headache bar and tore one of the chains off that hold the bar.

In the past, a number of large vehicles damaged the historic bridge by continuing to drive after hitting a wooden height restriction bar, knocking the bar down and then going through the bridge, ripping off beams as they drove.

The bridge was closed from July through Nov. 10, 2014, so crews from Professional Construction Contractors Inc. of Bethlehem could replace the open-grid steel deck and sandblast and paint the bridge.

The cost of the project, $304,000, was covered by Act 13 bridge improvement funds and Act 44 funds.

In 2015, the 155-year-old covered bridge was strengthened by the installation of steel height restriction headache bars.

Structural Metal Fabricators of Palmerton constructed the bars at a cost of $13,637.

Why if the bridge height restriction is 10'-6" is the "headache bar" set at 8'-6"? The top steel beam has a restriction height of 10'-6" (same as the bridge) so any vehicle hitting and damaging the headache bar without hitting the top steel beam, passes safely through the bridge without damaging it. Drivers know this so they just run the headache bar if they know their height is under 10'-6". Why not set the headache bar at a more realistic height of 9'-6" or 10'-0"? This still provides plenty of room below the steel beam for taller vehicles to pass and will result in far less damage to the headache bar. The present 2' clearance between the headache bar and the steel beam seems rather rediculous and is the cause of unnecessary expense.
I am sure if they raised the height of that bar, then another idiot would come through with a vehicle again "just above" the maximum and it would only be a matter of time before someone would go through the bar at the new height. I suggest it is time, given the lack of common sense so prevalent in our world today, to go to the expense of closing the bridge, building a parallel alternative, and having it open to pedestrian traffic only, with some substantial concrete abutments blocking both entrances so that no further foolishness could be tried.

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