BROWNSVILLE, Pa. — At 184 years old, the first arch bridge built in the United States using cast iron is about to get a much-needed facelift.
“It’s a very important piece to our history,” said Brownsville Borough Council President Tracy Sheehan Zivkovich, of the Dunlap Creek Bridge.
An important, historical project like this doesn’t come around often for PennDOT crews, according to acting District 12 executive Jeremy Hughes.
“For us, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hughes said. “It’s the first bridge of its kind in the U.S. Really, nearly the only bridge of its kind, and one of our few bridges that’s well over 100 years old.”
The cast iron tubular arch bridge was built along the National Road in the 1830s and opened in 1839. About 100 years ago in 1922, they built sidewalks onto the bridge, which blocked how the bridge originally looked. But now, that’ll be changing.
PennDOT will be taking the bridge apart, piece by piece, and then rebuilding it with a new deck — restoring the look to its original design.
“With this being such a unique structure, it’s a delicate structure being so old, the disassembly and reassembly is a lot more difficult than a standard bridge,” said Gary Ferrari, project manager.
Ferrari said the bridge will have to be taken to a fabricator and the restoration will be done in a controlled environment to keep the integrity of the cast iron.
PennDOT said it will take about a year to finish once work starts on the bridge.
The sidewalks will be removed, but PennDOT is building a pedestrian bridge right next to it. That will allow more people to see how the bridge was always supposed to look — and also make it safer for drivers.
Sheehan Zivkovich said it’s all part of the borough’s commitment to revitalizing the area -- while keeping as much history intact as they can.
“For this bridge to be dismantled and reconstructed exactly the way it was really set out and allows us to take history and bring it into today,” she said.
The project is expected to start next summer.
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