In the coming weeks, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will be making repairs to the historic bridge that carries Petroleum Center Road (Route 1004) over Oil Creek in Cornplanter Township, Venango County. The repairs will allow PennDOT to restore pedestrian and bicyclist access to the truss bridge. It will remain closed to motorized vehicles.
The Petroleum Center Bridge is located within Oil Creek State Park near the intersection with Russell Corners Road, an Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad station, the park office, the bike trail parking lot, and the Egbert Farm Day Use Area.
In the interest of public safety, the 139-year-old bridge was closed in October 2022 due to advanced deterioration and structural concerns discovered during a routine inspection. In spring, 2023, further inspections were conducted, and plans were created that would allow the bridge to be reopened to non-motorized users.
"Safety is the first concern for all bridges, including historic structures. Our first steps were to ensure users would be safe, which meant initially closing the bridge," said PennDOT District 1 Executive Brian McNulty. "We also understand the significant connection the bridge serves in the Oil Creek State Park. Therefore, our team set out to develop a plan that would enable visitors to access different parts of the park more easily. We are working alongside industry experts to reinforce the structural integrity of the bridge so it can be reopened to light weight traffic, like hikers and cyclists."
Work on the bridge will be done by employees from the Venango County maintenance facility under the guidance of historic bridge consultant Gannett Fleming and PennDOT engineering staff. Along with repairs made to secure the bridge's truss system, the workers will install bollards on the roadway at both ends of the structure to prohibit vehicles from using the crossing.
"Historical bridges come with unique challenges. Simply replacing this bridge with a new one is not an option. We are bound by state and federal regulations to coordinate the scopes and details of these projects with the State Historic Preservation Office, which takes more time than most simple bridge projects. Repairs and rehabilitation efforts must follow guidelines and preserve the historic nature of the structure," McNulty said. "These factors require time to evaluate and design solutions that meet today's structural and historical standards."
Once work on the bridge is complete, a public notice will be issued that pedestrians and cyclists may use it. Until that time, the park visitors should consider the bridge an active work zone and should not attempt to use the structure. Updates on the Petroleum Center Bridge will also be posted on the PennDOT website at www.penndot.pa.gov.
The single-lane steel through truss bridge was built in 1884 and was rehabilitated in 1984. Prior to being closed, it was posted with a weight limit of five tons and a height restriction of 11 feet. It is rated in poor condition. The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its engineering significance, which includes its distinct design and its standing as an example of work done by the Morse Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio.
Due to its condition, the bridge is on a six-month inspection cycle. Prior to the latest inspection, funding had been allocated for design and construction costs related to the bridge. Preliminary design work began in 2022 and continues in 2023. A construction contract for work needed to reopen the bridge to vehicles is tentatively scheduled to be awarded in 2026.
The bridge was used by approximately 75 vehicles a day, on average.
A motorized vehicle detour is posted using Route 8, Route 227, State Park Road, and Petroleum Center Road. Parking lots are available on both sides of the bridge.
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Information about infrastructure in District 1, including completed work and significant projects, is available at www.penndot.pa.gov/D1Results. Find PennDOT's planned and active construction projects at www.projects.penndot.gov.
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PennDOT District 1 is hiring for variety of positions, including CDL operators, mechanics, highway maintenance workers, civil engineers, construction inspectors, and transportation technicians. Apply online at www.employment.pa.gov.
Contact: Jill Harry, 814-678-5035 or email@example.com