WEST EARL TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — A large tractor-trailer struck a covered bridge in Lancaster County during the morning hours of Monday, Nov. 20.
According to Farmersville Fire Company, the incident occurred at Bitzer’s Mill Covered Bridge which spans the Conestoga River in Lancaster County.
The West Earl Township Police Department says the driver, who’s from Georgia, attempted to cross the bridge with a height restriction of 10’6″. However, the trailer stood at 13’4″ tall, leading to “significant” damage to the bridge.
“He said he did not see the signs,” West Earl Township Police Chief Eric Higgins said.
Police say the driver “exacerbated the situation by causing further harm to the bridge during attempted measures to reverse off the structure.”
The truck was extracted from the bridge, which is now closed pending further inspection and possible repairs.
“The [Farmersville] fire department was able to pry up some of the wooden trusses and local farmers came out and used some baling wire to hold them up so the vehicle could back up off the bridge,” Chief Higgins said.
“Right now we are assessing the damage and trying to come up with a repair plan. Kind of assessing what the repairs will be and actually, who will do it. It might be our county maintenance folks who do that but that’s to be determined,” PennDOT spokesperson Dave Thompson said.
Because of the closure, PennDOT stated that a detour is now in place using Farmersville Road (Route 1010), Route 322, and Pleasant Valley Road.
According to Discover Lancaster, the bridge was built in 1846 and is on Cats Back Road. It has also been known as the Martin’s Mill Bridge, Eberly Cider Mil Bridge, and Fiant’s Mill Bridge.
It is the oldest covered bridge in the county that is still in use and uses the Burr Truss type for its structure.
“The damage is to timber braces. I think that’s kind of unique. A lot of times our issues have been with steel and concrete,” Thompson said.
Discover Lancaster also stated that since the bridge is old and because it rests over a shallow creek, steel I-beams were installed under the floor to help support the foundation. It was built at a cost of $1,115 and has a span of 99 feet.
Police say charges are pending against the driver.
The bridge is expected to be closed for at least a month.