Effort underway to keep Sheepford Road Bridge open, but officials say it may be too expensive

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A grassroots effort is underway to save the Sheepford Road Bridge in Cumberland and York counties. It’ll close Wednesday for inspection, and community members worry it may never open again.

Most people agree the bridge is old and needs a lot of work to be preserved. Some neighbors are willing to do anything to keep it open to traffic.

But county officials say that may not be realistic on a budget.

“We’ve been here since 1958 and there’s been a lot of changes,” said George Page, who lives near the Sheepford Road Bridge.

Page is one of several Lower Allen and Fairview township residents who don’t want the Sheepford Road Bridge to close.

“We go to church every Sunday morning this way,” said Page.

Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge hosted the “Have a Heart – Save Our Bridge” event to educate the community Sunday.

“This bridge that was built in 1887, that’s number 10 or 11 in the entire state for historical significance, that’s rated 9 out of 10 by historic bridges for its historical and technological significance, is probably going to be closed permanently, and we’re trying to stop that,” said Janice Lynx, who organized Sunday’s event.

The group has a petition to keep the one-lane bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek open to traffic.

The bridge is jointly owned by York and Cumberland counties, so they split maintenance costs.

Cumberland County officials say they have no plans to demolish the bridge, but they are concerned about safety.

“Engineers have indicated to us, even before the inspection coming up on Wednesday, that rehabilitation is going to cost a lot of money, several hundred thousand dollars, and once we have that, we’re not going to see an impressionable increase in the weight carrying capacity of the bridge,” said Kirk Stoner, the director of planning for Cumberland County.

Money is limited, and traffic studies show the bridge is being used less and less. About 200 vehicles cross it a day.

“We have bridges like Orrs Bridge that has 10,000 vehicles per day and it’s a project of about $6 million. Some of those other bridges are going to be much higher priorities than this,” said Stoner.

The group admits it’s in bad shape, but says no amount of money is too much to preserve history.

“There’s only one reason to close this bridge and that’s money,” said Lynx. “I think that we can find the money. How much is too much to spend on a piece of our history?”

“Keeping it open to traffic really works against that historic preservation goal that we have, that the community has,” said Stoner.

Commissioners from both counties would have to figure out what to do with the bridge if it doesn’t pass inspection. There is no set timeline for any of these decisions.

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