Overweight vehicles blamed for closure of bridge connecting Cumberland and York counties

FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- York County engineers closed a bridge that links Fairview Township with Lower Allen Township in Cumberland County.

Built in the late 1800s, the Slate Hill Road bridge has withstood the test of time, but the only thing it's good for now is walking, fishing, creating memories.

Even with posted signs, the bridge closure caught some drivers off-guard, who seemed unaware it was closed.

The rustic Slate Hill Road bridge was a road that may have been paved with good intentions.

Neighbor Rose Reynolds said "until they paved this road, and built the developments on the other side, it was heaven in earth here."

Unfortunately, for about 1,600 drivers a day, the bridge is closed until further notice.

York County chief of transportation planning said "the local bridges are not faring as well as the state bridges, so they are usually at a little bit higher rate of structural deficiency."

With 94 county bridges to keep an eye on, bridge maintenance is becoming a larger part of the York County Planning Commission's responsibilities.

"It is a constant issue that is demanding attention. Basically, we have to replace about seven to eight bridges a year to stay on track. So, we are constantly looking at which bridge, what bridges need to be started, so they can be constructed in a timely manner," Clark said.

For the Slate Hill Road bridge, weather, time, and the Yellow Breeches Creek aren't the only factors taking a toll on the structure, which has lasted more than 100 years.

"One of the concerns that the bridge engineer was looking at, is the use of the bridge by overweight vehicles. The deterioration of the overweight vehicles creates the deterioration faster," Clark said.

"There's a three-ton limit on that bridge, and its ignored. There's a small sign out at the end of the road to inform people, but no one sees it," Reynolds said.

"It is illegal for a vehicle that weighs more than three tons to go over the bridge. We do know that that was happening, and there were citations that were given, but not nearly at the frequency that it was happening," Clark said.

The future of the bridge is to be determined. If and when Cumberland and York Counties repair the bridge, it won't be replaced but restored, which is why Reynolds has a message for drivers who ignore the three-ton weight limit.

"Stop, please, because it's historical, this house, the bridge, the water company here, and the beauty of this area," Reynolds said.

There are a number of vehicles banned from using the bridge, including fire trucks.

"Trash truck, ambulance, school bus, none of those vehicles, even a pick up truck that is fully loaded with mulch," Clark said.

"None of those vehicles should be using this type of bridge that is posted at three tons," Clark added.