The historic Messerall Truss Bridge in Crawford County was on the move recently.
The 145-year-old metal bowstring truss, one of a very few of its kind left in the country, was lifted by crane as the first major step in refurbishing, repurposing, and rehoming the structure.
It is a big step for the small bridge, which has been closed to traffic since 1987.
"This bridge has been on our radar for decades. It is no longer able to support motor vehicles, so finding the right fit was important to preserving it," said Don Burden, historic preservation specialist with PennDOT. "Watching the move was an amazing experience knowing what a longtime coming it was."
Since 1876, the bridge has been perched above Pine Creek in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County.
On August 10, 2021, that tenure came to an end as it was hoisted off its abutements and gently placed at a landing area on the grounds of Northwest Hardwoods a process that took a little over 20 minutes. From there it was dismantled and taken to a workshop for rehabilitation.
Next year, the bridge will be reassembled and outfitted with a wooden deck at its new home — Pymatuning State Park. It will then become part of the park's popular and expanding multi-use trail.
The work is a partnership between PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
"As part of our environmental process, we look at various ways to preserve historic bridges. Repurposing is one of those options," Burden said. "This particular structure was owned by Crawford County. The county recently transferred ownership of the bridge to DCNR. We worked with the county and DCNR to create this partnership that helps all the parties while maintaining a piece of history. It is an outcome that was worth the wait."
Once in place at Pymatuning, the 103-foot bridge will carry the bike trail over Linesville Creek, an important link in the expansion plans at the park. The overall project includes resurfacing the existing path and constructing a new section that will increase the length of the trail from just over a mile to more than three miles.
"This project is important to the park. During the design phase, we heard from many members of the public who were happy we are to lengthening the trail into the nearby Borough of Linesville," said Dan Bickel, Pymatuning State Park manager. "To also include the Messerall Truss Bridge in the plan has made it that much more exciting."
The bowstring truss bridge was among the earliest metal truss bridge designs, and despite the number of them built mostly in the 1870s, Messerall is one of the last to remain standing. It was constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, and was last rehabilitated in 1960.
The contractor on the trail project, including moving the bridge, is Horizon Construction Group Inc, of Sandy Lake, PA. The contract cost is $2,289,000, which is being paid entirely with federal funds.
Find more information about the project on our Pymatuning State Park Trail Project page, located on the PennDOT District 1 page. There's also a YouTube video of the bridge move.
The DCNR shares information about the park on their Pymatuning State Park Facebook page.