PennDOT to look at improving historic English Center bridge

The state Department of Transportation will begin to turn its attention to improving or replacing the English Center suspension bridge this fall.

The 300-foot span crosses Little Pine Creek about 1/2-mile west of Route 287, which it connects via Little Pine Creek Road, or state route 4001, to Route 44 at Waterville.

PennDOT has scheduled a public meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 22 at the English Center Community Center to take input from people on how the project should be conducted and to present findings from traffic surveys taken at the beginning of last hunting season and around last Memorial Day.

“Our intention is to go out to the public and try to gather whatever needs we haven’t already collected,” said Lloyd Ayers, PennDOT District 3-0 bridge engineer. “Can we repair the bridge to meet the needs? Do we need a new bridge to meet the needs? We need to pick correct scope of what to do with the bridge.”

The English Center bridge was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1978, and currently is listed as structurally deficient and obsolete. It now has a three-ton weight limit.

“It’s a historical structure, which leads to getting into a more involved process of developing needs for the project,” Ayers said. “We don’t go want into this stating here’s what we want to do. We need input from everybody that has a stake in this project to decide what the best scope of work there is here.”

New York City firm Dean and Westbrook built the English Center bridge in 1891, along with a larger bridge further up Little Pine Creek that was replaced in 1932. Though the bridge is often referred to as an “eyebar suspension” design, it incorporates diagonal supports in a similar manner to a truss design – a nearly unheard of combination for its era.