Birth of a bridge

Work is progressing on the Loyalsock Creek railroad bridge in Lycoming County as the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority continues to target a June 15, 2014 completion, said Jeff Stover, executive director of the rail authority.

The $9.1 million project is about 10 percent complete. Located between Montoursville and Williamsport, the original 85-year-old structure was demolished after being severely damaged in floods resulting from Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.

Construction began in July, and rail authority Railroad Consulting Engineer John Conrad gave the following targeted construction schedule:

Pier 1 to be completed in December, and the east abutment in early January.

East No. 1 superstructure span to be completed in January 2014. This span is the steel thru-girders from the east abutment to Pier 1. Simultaneous work will be done on Pier 2 on the west abutment, to be done by February 2014.

Span 3 to be completed in March 2014.

Large middle center truss span to be erected piece by piece beginning in March and done by late May 2014.

Construction is currently focused on the foundation of the first pier, the only one of the bridge’s two piers that will be in the water under normal water levels. Seventy steel piles will be driven into bedrock, approximately 50 feet below the creek. The 1927

bridge across Loyalsock Creek sat on timber mats buried only eight feet below the stream’s bottom.

In addition to the two piers, the center section of the railroad bridge will employ a truss, comprised of nearly 3,600 pieces of steel, produced at ArcelorMittal and fabricated at High Steel’s Williamsport and Lancaster plants.

As work on the pier continues, a track in Montoursville between Sooner Pipe and Mill Street is being removed, east of Loyalsock Creek, in order that the grade can be raised approximately 3.5 feet. A new concrete grade crossing with flashing lights will be installed at Mill Street.

The new bridge will be higher than the old structure: 3 feet above water flow, based on 100-year storm levels, and 1.5 feet above flow, based on Tropical Storm Lee. The new bridge will also be longer than the old one: 474 feet compared to 350 feet, and have a wider hydraulic opening.

“This is going to be a solid, massive structure, and a valuable addition to Central Pennsylvania’s shortline railroad system,” Stover said.