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Officials looking for long-term solution to Columbia-Wrightsville bridge mayfly problem

WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. --  People using the Route 462 bridge in York County in the next few weeks, will want to slow down.

Mayflies are once again, forcing both Columbia and Wrightsville officials to turn the bridge lights off, in an effort to keep the bugs at bay.

 “It’s really like driving through a blizzard," said officer Troy Engle, Columbia Borough Police Department.

 “I imagine some people hear about mayflies being a hazard and they think it’s silly, but once you’re in it, it is really blinding and can cause a lot of damage to your vehicle," added Engle.

The reoccurring problem is something Wrightsville council president, Eric J. White, says he’s working hard to fix...for good.

“The mayflies only became a serious problem when the lights were changed several years ago and then it got so bad that they have to use front end loaders to remove the dead carcasses the next day," said White.

Which is why Wrightsville Borough has paired up with Dr. John Wallace, professor of biology at Millersville University for a preliminary study.

“What we want to do is look at the mayflies at different times during this emergence period," said Wallace.

Dr. Wallace says they will be looking at the amount of mayflies swarm when lights are turned on, versus when they are turned off.

They will also be looking at different colors, wave lengths and placement of lights under the bridge, instead of on top.

“With the project coming up to redo this entire bridge we’re hoping that PennDOT will put under lights with that new bridge and keep the mayflies down at the river surface," said White.

The reconstruction of the Columbia-Wrightsville bridge isn’t set to begin until 2023.

FOX43 reached out to PennDOT and they responded with the following statement:

The study being done on the rehabilitation of the Wrightsville Columbia bridge is in the very early stages, with physical work not scheduled to begin until 2023. PennDOT has been asked to consider approving lighting underneath the bridge as part of the rehab project. If Wrightsville Borough would like to work with Millersville University to undertake an environmental impact study, we would certainly welcome that research. An important concern for PennDOT would be whether under lighting would actually work to keep the mayflies from swarming the top of the bridge. We would also like to ensure that under lighting would not have a negative impact on the aquatic and plant life below. Currently we have no studies to support under lighting or to support not using under lighting, so we look forward to the results of any environmental study that may be done." - PennDOT

 “I think this type of study will help to try and allow us to create ways in which we can live with this improving water conditions and improving insect populations, but in a safe way," added Dr. Wallace.

 “We’re hoping that’s the path, but of course, the science will lead and tell us what to do," added White.

Bridge lights will be on and off throughout the next 10 days for that preliminary study. Saturday June 16th being the first off day and Sunday June 17th being an off day.

Police are advising people to drive slowly over the bridge and wear reflective gear or a flashlight when walking on the pedestrian part of the bridge.