A civil engineer briefed supervisors of Mount Joy Township and Conewago Township, Dauphin County, on options for what to do with the closed Mill Road Bridge connecting the two townships and many citizens in attendance urged supervisors not to replace it with a two-lane bridge. The bridge closed in late July after storm damage made it unsafe.
Mount Joy Township Supervisor Gerald G. Cole said getting the bridge back in service was more of a priority for Conewago Township; he said Mount Joy Township residents have little need for the bridge.
“I would not have heartburn if we just closed the thing and walked away,” Cole said.
Many citizens spoke their minds about the bridge at the meeting, which was held in the Conewago Township building on Thursday, Oct. 4. Citizens who opposed a two-lane bridge said a larger bridge would encourage more through traffic in the area, causing more problems with speeding, littering and recklessness. Katcha Neale, owner of the Aberdeen Mills farm just north of the bridge, said she has been slightly inconvenienced by the bridge being out, but said the lack of traffic has been a blessing.
“Your chickens aren’t getting hit; your cats don’t get run over,” Neale said.
Neale said one option she would like to be considered is fixing up the bridge so it can carry pedestrians and bicycles only, eliminating it as a motor vehicle bridge. Several others, however, said they use the bridge frequently and urged officials to have a one-lane bridge in place. Neale said there had been a covered bridge there in the early 20th century and that would be an option worth considering; an advantage is that snow plows would not need to go on a covered bridge. Another option brought up was a walkway that would be separate from the one lane for motor vehicles.
The civil engineering company Herbert, Rowland & Grubic serves as the Dauphin County engineer. Brian D. Emberg, senior vice president and chief technical officer with the company, said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s standard for allowing a one-lane bridge would normally limit it to a traffic count of 100 vehicles per day. Justin Evans, the Mount Joy Township manager, said a traffic count done over a period of one week in early June showed an average daily count of 192 trips made going north and 186 going south, a total traffic count of 378. Evans said there was no way to tell if that week was typical, however.
Emberg described the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank, which allows municipalities to finance bridge projects at very low interest rates. Since the infrastructure bank was established in partnership with PennDOT, the bridge would need PennDOT’s approval to get funding via the infrastructure bank. That means PennDOT would have to agree to a design exception to put a one-lane bridge on a road that has more than 100 vehicles using it per day. Evans said the fact that the road has two curves of nearly 90 degrees just south of the bridge, slowing down traffic, should help with that. As for funding from Lancaster County, Evans said he had checked with county commissioners and county transportation officials and had been told no money was available.
Emberg said he would need to have a plan in place by November to get financing from the infrastructure bank.