The Inwood Iron Bridge, a formerly well-used bridge crossing the Swatara Creek, was lifted away by a crane on July 9. What happens to it now?
The 151-foot-long bridge, manufactured in 1899 by the Pittsburgh Bridge Company and erected by Chambersburg-based Nelson & Buchanan, was a landmark for more than a century. Though the bridge was closed to all traffic by 2006, it had remained over the Swatara until it was lifted up from its abutments a few days after Independence Day. In recent years, the possibility of structural collapse had become a threat.
The bridge will soon undergo disassembly and reconstruction, though it will not return to its place spanning the creek. Instead, it will become the centerpiece of a planned “pocket” park nearby. The land being used for the park was generously sold to the county in 2017 by Charlotte and Chuck Allwein, for the total price of $2.00, as the Lebanon Daily News reported at the time (paywall).
The new location will be roughly 300 feet down Old State Road from the bridge’s original location, and visitors to the park will be able to walk on the truss when it is replaced. Parking will be available.
A new, modern-construction bridge will span the river and allow road traffic. Emergency medical services in particular will now be able to traverse the creek, which was a major source of concern with the old bridge. Bicyclists will also be able to cross between the Swatara and Lebanon County Rails to Trails, using the bridge as a convenient crossover point.
Said PennDOT Senior Project Manager John Bachman of the project: “It’s been a team effort between PennDOT and Lebanon County.”
The entirety of the project is planned for completion by June 2020, according to Bachman. Construction of the new bridge is expected to begin sometime later this year. Some preliminary work on the Allwein Park, as the old bridge’s new home will be called, has already begun, including the clearing of trees.
Before the old bridge can be placed in the park, it will have to be transported back across the river using the new bridge. A substructure, parking spaces, and other general work will need to be done within the park before the bridge can be laid down and the park is opened to the public.
The technicalities of the bridge’s construction set it apart from other bridges in the state. Built of steel with distinctive z-shaped floor-beam hangers, u-wing walls, and stone abutments, the bridge is one of the last remaining through-truss bridges in Pennsylvania. It underwent repair work in 1960, which included a new floor system of decks and stringers. The bridge was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, though it has not been placed on the register.