This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and The Mercury‘s website.
People will be able to take a drive through history once again after PennDOT rehabilitates three covered bridges in Chester County.
PennDOT awarded a $3.2 million contract to Eastern Highway Specialists, Inc., who will set to work on the Rapps Dam covered bridge in East Pikeland, the Speakman covered bridge and West Marlborough and the Knox covered bridge in Valley Forge National Historic Park in Tredyffrin Township.
“The ideas to rehabilitate the bridges came from a variety of sources — from the county, from PennDOT, from the historic preservation community and from legislators, such as myself,” said Sen. Andy Dinniman. “PennDOT is trying to rehabilitate as many bridges on the funds that we have approved. The historic covered bridges are still being used. Some of the funds we approved last year for highways can be used to restore the bridges.”
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The three covered bridges were chosen for a specific reason.
“These three are being repaired for two reasons: because of their condition and because of their historic importance,” Dinniman said. “Both Speakman and the Rapps Dam are on the historic register already. Knox is eligible to be placed on it.”
Pennsylvania is home to more than 1/4 of the covered bridges in the United States with 210.
Chester County, which once had 85, is down to just 15 of those 210 bridges.
“We need to keep the ones that we have and maintain them,” Dinniman said. “It’s part of keeping our history and keeping what we’re all about alive and well.”
The contractor will hit the bridges one-by-one. Rapps Dam bridge, which has been closed since last spring when it was struck by an oversized truck, will be first on the list and is to start in June.
“The Rapps Dam Bridge was fixed and redone and then a truck bumped into it,” Dinniman said. “This is the second time around for the bridge within the last decade.”
Next will be the Speakman bridge, which needs a replacement of the substructure, the reconstruction of the support abutments and wing walls and the reassembly and replacement of timber.
“All the parts are ready for reconstruction,” Dinniman said. “It was held up since 2012 because the effort to make sure it was done the right way.”
The Knox bridge will be the last to get rehabilitated.
All three bridges are expected to be finished by September 2016.
“Within a year, they should all come back online, which should make everything much better in the sense of making it easier for people who live in those areas,” Dinniman said.
Though only three bridges are being rehabilitated at this time, that doesn’t mean the rest won’t get any attention down the road.
“I think all of us, that includes the government, want to make sure the 15 bridges that remain stay here,” Dinniman said. “We need to preserve it. We only have 15 left, we have to double and triple our commitment to make sure these 15 remain.”
Dinniman, who is a historian and spent time as a history professor, has been a supporter of fixing up these covered bridges.
It’s something which, he feels, are important to keep around in the county.
“It adds to the special sense of place that is Chester County,” Dinniman said. “We live in a very unique and special area with beautiful landscapes, rivers, streams, woodlands and historic structures. It’s an extra treat to go across a covered bridge. It adds to the ambiance of the place and makes our county so special.”