No matter where one travels in the Commonwealth, historic bridges dot the landscape. These graceful monuments to Pennsylvania's transportation and engineering history are a tangible link with the past that visitors and residents statewide can enjoy today. Few states rival Pennsylvania in sheer diversity of bridge design, construction, and thematic styles.
PennDOT's Cultural Resources Program and Bridges
Historic bridges are a key feature of PennDOT's cultural resources program. Due to the number, history and importance of Pennsylvania bridges, significant efforts are expended to ensure that transportation projects are sensitive to the historic character of these resources. A delicate balance is required to design, build and maintain safe bridges, while at the same time preserving the integrity of historically signficant bridges.
This is no small task, and requires a great deal of cooperation and consultation with other state and Federal agencies. Not all bridges can be preserved in place, rehabilitated, or moved to new locations. When avoidance of eligible or listed bridges is not possible, several alternative measures are available to otherwise minimize or mitigate any adverse effects a project may have on a particular resource.
Context Sensitive Design
One mitigation measure, known as context-sensitive design, involves designing replacement bridges in harmony with the original design, with particular attention paid to materials, workmanship, and appearance. In addition, the new design takes into account the historic context of both the original bridge itself and of it's surroundings and setting.
Another mitigation measure is bridge documentation according to standards established by the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) prior to bridge demolition. This may occur as a project-specific mitigation measure, or also may be contracted for directly with the HABS/HAER division of the National Park Service for an entire group of bridges that share some historical context in terms of their age, locations, or design.
If rehabilitation is proposed for an historic bridge, the process is guided by the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
Stone Arch Bridges
Pennsylvania has one of the nation's largest populations of historic stone arch bridges, many of them in Greater Philadelphia region (District 6-0). In that part of the Commonwealth, PennDOT has developed and implemented an innovative Stone Arch Bridge Management Plan and an accompanying Maintenance Manual to assist in both transportation decision making and the care of this special class of bridges. Whenever possible, historic bridges that are still sound, but are scheduled for replacement due to their weight or size limits, can have a new life through our bridge marketing program.
This innovative program has succeeded in placing several historic bridges with new owners, and transported them to new locations to continue to grace the Commonwealth's landscape. Bridges eligible for marketing can be viewed at our bridge marketing page.
Historic Truss Bridge Management Plan
In development since 2012, PennDOT has begun the roll-out of our Historic Truss Bridge Management Plan. Please visit the plan page, review the components as they come on line, and please share your comments, ideas and suggestions with us.