May 3—For nearly 100 years it has rested beside the Mount Carbon Arch Street bridge like a ghost keeping watch over its heir.
Yet, in the near future, it will have a new life.
At a recent Executive Schuylkill Roundtable hosted by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association, Schuylkill Municipal Authority Executive Director Patrick M. Caulfield announced that PennDOT will move the abandoned bowstring truss bridge, which spans the Schuylkill River across the street from the Goodfellas Cafe, to the Coal Creek Commerce Center in Saint Clair to serve as a foot bridge on a walking trail.
"It's going to promote quality of life in Schuylkill County to our residents," he said.
When it was built in January 1894, the bridge was the only route for highway traffic to cross the river between Schuylkill Haven and Pottsville. Wagons, buggies, trolleys and foot traffic heading north would pass through the original double passageway Mount Carbon Arch just to the south of the current underpass.
As automobiles became more common, the area became notorious for traffic accidents and, in 1924-26, county, state and railroad authorities built the current underpass and the double arch highway bridge now in use. In the 1950s, Route 122, now 61, was routed over the foot of Sharp Mountain to Claude A. Lord Boulevard, its current route. A section of the old arch is still used to unload grain from railroad cars, but the rest is now walled off.
The old bridge became a footbridge for many years, but now the wooden flooring is long gone, a single piece of wooden railing being the only non-metal part remaining on the structure. The municipal authority owns what remains of the structure, which carries a 12-inch water main.
Although it is mostly unnoticed, obscured by bushes during the warm months, the span has recently been found to have historical value, and PennDOT officials approached the authority expressing interest in it. In an email Friday, Caufield explained further.
"PennDOT is relocating the bridge as part of their project to restore it as it is one of two remaining bowstring truss bridges in PA, and on the National Historic Bridge list," he wrote.
Caulfield said that PennDOT is developing a program through its Multimodel Transportation Division in which some funds PennDOT set aside for demolishing one historic bridge are reallocated to refurbish an existing bridge on the list.
"In our case, the bridge over the Lehigh River between Cementon and Northampton is being replaced, along with another bridge in Berks County. Funds from these projects are allocated to the refurbishment of the Mount Carbon Bridge," he said. "We were approached by PennDOT and then we suggested consideration of the new location on another project that we are working on with the Schuylkill River Greenway, the Frackville/St. Clair Trail."
At the original location, PennDOT will pay for a new water line to go under the river.
The Saint Clair section of the Schuylkill River Trail will be extended to cross the bridge at Terry Rich Boulevard on its way to Frackville.
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