With Norman Wood Bridge closed, southern York County residents take the long way around


The closing of the Norman Wood Bridge happened just before Terry Frey was to cross it on Monday, and it denied her some pizza.

The Delta resident had been en route to meet a friend for food by crossing the only bridge that connects southern York and Lancaster counties, but it seemed to have just shut down, as state Department of Transportation vehicles were rolling in when she showed up.

"I'm glad I didn't get across, or I would've been stuck," said Frey, who was working at the Brogue-area Smith Auctioneers along Route 74 — Delta Road — on Wednesday evening.

"That would have sucked," she said.

Not too many people would argue with that — the closest crossing points are Routes 462 and 30 in the Wrightsville area well to the north or Maryland's Route 1 across the Conowingo Dam a ways to the south, according to PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny. The Norman Wood Bridge carries Route 372 — Holtwood Road — over the river from the Airville area to the Holtwood area in Lancaster County.

"It's hurting a lot of people," said Gil Fishpole of Stewartstown. He said he used to have to go across it every day for work, so he's glad he's since retired, considering how long the detours are.

"It's 50 miles that way and 40 miles that way," he said, pointing north first and then south along Route 74.

Google Maps says his estimate is pretty close to dead on — from the intersection of Route 372 with Route 74, which is the first main road west of the bridge, to the village of Bethesda on the other side in Lancaster County, it's about 39 miles to go around south over the dam and 46 to take Route 30 around north.

When the bridge is open, it's no more than 5 miles.

Crack: The bridge closed Monday immediately after an inspection revealed an 8-foot-long vertical crack in one of its girders. Engineers have been checking it out over the past couple of days and will likely have an idea of how they're going to fix it by the end of the week, Penny said.

In the meantime, the bridge is going to stay closed indefinitely to all traffic. That includes foot and buggy traffic, at least for the time being.

Penny said he's not really sure quite how or why the crack formed. A few massive loads have traveled over the bridge relatively recently, but crews had previously made sure the bridge was able to support them, he said.

And it isn't in poor condition otherwise — on a scale of zero to nine, where nine is the best and zero is more or less collapsing, the surface, superstructure and substructure of the 47-year-old bridge are rated six, six and five respectively, according to Penny.

"Attributing any cause to this crack is just speculative," he said. "The focus for us right now is what can we do to address it."

Crossing the river: In a somewhat strange coincidence, local historian David Glenn had been planning a talk Wednesday at Shrewsbury United Methodist Church about the history of people crossing the Susquehanna River, so this turn of events gave him quite a news peg.

Glenn, a Lower Chanceford Township resident and supervisor, told the 70-or-so in attendance in the church's basement that there used to be another bridge in the area, long ago — the McCall's Ferry Bridge, which was a little ways to the north. Upon its completion in 1817, its architect, Theodore Burr, declared: "Here stands a bridge God himself could not move."

The Almighty apparently took him up on that challenge, and river ice knocked the bridge down only a year after it was finished, Glenn said.

Until 1968, there was no bridge between Wrightsville and the Conowingo Dam, until Lions groups on both sides of the river successfully lobbied for the erection of one, an effort championed by John Hope Anderson and Norman Wood, who would lend the bridge his name.

— Reach Sean Cotter at