Builder's plate

Demolished, 2003


Horseheads Bridge Co. bridge

In March of 2003, I spotted this 1894 pin-connected through-truss while heading south out of Meyersdale, Pa., on route 219. It was late on a rainy afternoon, but I took pictures anyway. I returned in August of 2004 to visit this bridge, the 1871 Bollman bridge up on the other side of Meyersdale, and a couple of others -- a single-lane through-truss road bridge in Meyersdale proper, a through-truss railroad bridge just upstream from that, the Salisbury Viaduct, and the Burkholder covered bridge.

Alas, this little bridge had vanished since my 2003 visit, replaced by a "Bridge Out" sign and some guard-rail barriers on either side of the stream it once crossed. I don't even know the bridge's name. It was located just a couple of hundred yards north of route 219 on a road the maps show as "T502," slightly east of a hamlet called Boynton. I put up a query on the bridge-news page and had an answer a day later from Todd Wilson, a Carnegie Mellon University civil-engineering student who is working on a book about bridges near Pittsburgh. He forwarded an article from The Tribune-Democrat, of Johnstown, Pa., that says the bridge was closed in May 2003 after being severely damaged -- "the bridge may have been hit, or else it crumpled under an overweight vehicle," the article says. The bridge was torn down soon after. The text of the article appears below.

Todd says he has found "two nearly identical bridges (with the same portal design and ornamentation), but neither of them still had their plaques." One of these is also over the Casselman River, located two bridges upstream in Salisbury, on Depot Street. "There is also another interesting Pratt truss bridge over the Casselman, which is the next crossing to the north of the demolished T-502 Bridge (on T-353, Moser Road). You can look at the other similar bridge (located in Elk County, PA), at this Web site: http://www.venangoil.com/bridgesspringcreek.html."



Map

The bridge was located under the "N" in "Casselman."

End on



Weight-limit sign

The bridge had a 14-ton weight limit, which seemed like a lot to me. The sign had been knocked over.

Detail

The ornament was simple but appealing.

Another detail



River view

Maintenance appeared to have been sparse in recent years.

Barriers

This is all that remained in August 2004.

Text of 2003 article from The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Salisbury -- During Friday morning's rainstorm, Janet Hochard found rising waters blocking both routes to her Elk Lick Township home.

She knew a third route -- a bridge residents had used in emergencies -- had been removed months before and never replaced.

"You couldn't even see where the road was," Hochard recalled yesterday. "I thought, 'How am I going to get home?' "

Yesterday, township residents trapped by last week's flooding, lobbied Somerset County commissioners to replace their emergency route -- the former Moser Bridge just off Route 219.

Commissioners ordered the deteriorating, county-owned bridge destroyed in May, saying repairs were not feasible.

While commissioners say replacing the span will cost too much and doesn't make sense, residents contend lives could be at risk.

"If there was an emergency, the ambulance could not get in or out, and also the fire company," resident Harvey Moser told commissioners at their biweekly meeting.

At issue are about 50 families in what's called the Boynton section of Elk Lick Township, just north of Salisbury.

The Casselman River flows through, and the major waterway or a tributary can cause road flooding during storms less severe than last week's.

"This happens quite often, at least once a year, sometimes twice a year," said Moser, who with his brother operates an Elk Lick Township beef-cattle farm.

But residents say they could count on Moser Bridge, which spanned the Casselman and was more than 100 years old, as a refuge that rarely flooded because of its higher elevation.

"We could always cross that bridge, and now we have nothing," Hochard said in a telephone interview from her home.

Friday's rains from the remnants of Hurricane Isabel made matters worse. Moser left by driving through a neighbor's field, and there were stories of parents unable to return from work.

Hochard, an emergency medical technician with Salisbury Ambulance Association, spent Friday afternoon waiting at the community's fire station. She was able to return home at about 5:30 p.m.

But Hochard worries about what might have been, especially in the event of a fire or medical emergency at homes isolated by floodwaters.

"You know what can happen, and how quick it can happen," Hochard said.

Moser says the bridge could have been repaired, but county commissioners say that's not true. They closed the span in May after learning it had been severely damaged.

The bridge may have been hit, or else it crumpled under an overweight vehicle, Commissioner Brad Cober said.

"The bridge itself could have fallen at that time," Cober said in a telephone interview. "We treated it as a health and safety issue."

After further inspection, commissioners voted to tear down the bridge. Cober said that decision was based on several factors, including the small number of residents the span served and an available detour of less than two miles.

Simply replacing the bridge likely is not an option.

"The cost is in excess of $1.5 million," Cober said. "To build by current standards, they wouldn't even allow that alignment to stay."

Commissioners discussed options with concerned residents yesterday. Cober said officials could apply for federal funding, but that likely would not come quickly -- if at all.

"I'm not sure the priority would be high, because of the short detour around it," he said.

There also was some discussion with Elk Lick Township officials about elevating the road at a different spot to avoid flooding. But it's not clear whether that's a solution.

And commissioners said they would examine another safety issue: Moser contends he now must detour his farm equipment onto busy Route 219.

"We did say we'd look at putting up some warning signs, but obviously we'd have to work with (state officials) on that," Cober said.

It's clear that no one left yesterday's meeting happy.

Moser said he might contact state officials about the bridge, but Cober says taking expensive, large-scale action isn't practical.

"There's really no commitment to rebuilding the bridge," Cober said.

19 August 2004


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