Even with only a quick glance at the Messerell Truss Bridge it is easy to see it is something special. The historic bowstring structure received a complete rehabilitation in 2021 and 2022 and a new home along the expanded Pymatuning State Park multi-use trail in Crawford County. The project was made possible through a collaborated effort by PennDOT, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Crawford County government that was supported by the historical expertise of design consultant McCormick Taylor among others.
The end result was new life for the 147-year-old bridge that dates back to the oil boom days of Titusville, Crawford County.
"This project offered a unique and important opportunity for PennDOT and the DCNR to partner for the benefit of various communities all at once," said Brian McNulty, PennDOT District 1 Executive. "The DCNR was able to enhance a popular stretch of trail that users have been requesting for a long time. Crawford County was able to pass on a closed bridge so it could be preserved in a new location. And PennDOT was able to facilitate the sometimes-complicated construction process that accompanies historic structures and trail creation for the benefit of the community here in Linesville, as well as the thousands of visitors the park receives every year."
The extra effort dedicated to overcoming the unique challenges of preserving an exceptionally historic bridge and returning it to service has not gone unnoticed. It has garnered three awards so far, including two presented on the same night.
On May 18, the Pymatuning Trail Extension and Messerall Truss Bridge Relocation project was awarded the ABCD Pittsburgh 2022 Project of the Year honor in the Special Purpose Structure Category during a ceremony in Carnegie, PA.
That same night, the project also received an Oil Region Historic Preservation Award in the Structure Category in homage to the bridge's original home outside of Titusville, PA.
"This project was a labor of love for PennDOT and our partners. Knowing all the unique challenges and processes we faced during the design, disassembly and reassembly of the bridge makes receiving these honors, especially two on one night, even more meaningful," said Tom McClelland, Assistance District Executive - Design. "It is certainly a project our team takes pride in both for the importance of preservation and the success of our partnerships."
Earlier this year, the bridge was also named the ASHE Franklin 2022 Project of the Year in the under $3 million category.
The contractor for the project was Horizon Construction Group Inc, of Sandy Lake, PA. QES provided consultant inspection services. Lockhart Ironworks handled specialized metal refurbishment and hot rivet work. The entire trail expansion project, which cost $2,289,000, was funded with a federal Transportation Alternative Set-Aside (TASA) grant.
Following the refurbishment, relocation and reopening of the bridge in fall 2022, the District 1 team put together a short documentary about the project. It can be viewed on the PennDOT YouTube channel or at the District 1 website penndot.pa.gov/District1 on the Pymatuning State Park Trail Project webpage.