Residents rally for York-Cumberland bridge built in 19th century

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Lower Allen Township residents Joan Lenker, left, and Janice Lynx are working to save a bridge spanning the Yellow Breeches Creek that was built in the late 1800's.  
Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

A historical bridge connecting York and Cumberland counties could be slated to close soon, but a group of Cumberland County residents is trying to save it.

Sheepford Road Bridge, an aluminum and iron truss bridge built in 1887, crosses the Yellow Breeches Creek between Fairview and Lower Allen townships.

"I’m hoping we can influence the right people at the right time and come up with some funding, so we can at least save it for the next 50 or 100 years," said Joan Lenker, one of the neighbors trying to protect the bridge.

The bridge needs several repairs, some more urgently than others, according to a recent inspection report from the state Department of Transportation.

In considering the fate of a bridge, planners look at the potential impact on emergency services and school bus routes, the number of vehicles that use the bridge daily, the surrounding roadway network and the cost of rehabilitation, said Heather Bitner, senior planner at the York County Planning Commission.

The estimated cost to rehabilitate the bridge would be about $1 million, Bitner said.

Sheepford Road Bridge is one of nine bridges co-owned by the two counties, but York County has the lead on this one.

Bitner said the York County Planning Commission and Cumberland County Planning Commission will make recommendations to each county's board of commissioners after coming to a joint conclusion.

Then the bridge's fate will be up to the county commissioners.

"The historic value of that bridge is immeasurable," said Janice Lynx, another neighbor trying to preserve the bridge. "We’re afraid that eventually, it’s just going to be replaced with another bridge at a much higher cost."

A group of residents in the area of Sheepford Road in Cumberland County are working to save a bridge spanning the Yellow Breeches Creek that was built in the late 1800's.  
Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Lynx and Lenker have been handing out flyers to passersby, distributing lawn signs to neighbors and attending municipal meetings in both counties to state their case.

In addition to the bridge's historical value, residents have said they're concerned about an increase in emergency response times if the bridge were to close, and also about losing an evacuation route in case something were to go wrong with the Mariner East 2 pipeline that crosses the northernmost tip of York County and part of Cumberland County.

Kirk Stoner, director of planning for Cumberland County, said emergency vehicles are already prohibited from using the bridge because of its weight restriction, which PennDOT lists as 3 tons.

And police officers from Lower Allen Township and Fairview Township usually don't cross the bridge into each other's jurisdiction, Stoner said.

"Rehabbing at this point doesn’t look to be cost-effective, because if we rehabilitate it, we’re not going to meaningfully increase the weight capacity of the bridge," he said.

And with an average daily traffic level of 200 to 250 vehicles, which Stoner said is considered low-volume, the multimillion-dollar cost of replacing the bridge might not be worth it, he said.

The York County Planning Commission hasn't reached its conclusion yet, Bitner said, and an estimated time frame for a decision was not available.

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