Lycoming County will spend $866,000 to renovate a bridge near Lairdsville even though the road it carries across Little Muncy Creek serves no one and abruptly ends in a grass and gravel cul de sac.
The bridge is far from being the county's version of the "bridge to nowhere," however.
Instead, Transportation Planner Mark Murawski described it as a "bridge to the past" and one of only three covered bridges left in the county.
The bridge will be rehabilitated next spring and summer using funding made available through a state program designed to save the historic structures.
In 1985, the county relocated the township road upstream and built a new county bridge to serve thru traffic, Murawski said.
"We kept this (covered) bridge because of historical reasons," he said.
The other bridges, located in Buttonwood and Buckhorn, were renovated in 1998 using the same type of funding - a combination of Federal Highway Transportation funding and state Act 26 funding - that will be used to fix the Lairdsville bridge, Murawski said.
No local funding is used for the covered bridge renovations, he said.
Not much is known about the local covered bridges. For many years, a county Redevelopment Authority was in charge of maintaining local bridges in the county, including covered bridges, according to Murawski.
When the authority was disbanded about 30 years ago, many of its records "were lost to time," he said.
According to Murawski, covered bridges "were in vogue" in the 1800s.
Theodore Burr of Torringford, Conn., was one of the earliest and most prominent bridge designers in the country. His "Burr arch truss" bridge design is, by far, the most commonly found design among the state's covered bridges, according to the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania.
The Buttonwood bridge, which was built in 1898, is a Burr arch truss bridge. The bridge carries Township Road 816 over Blockhouse Creek in Jackson Township.
The bridge, which is 74 feet long and 19 feet wide, is the only one of the county's covered bridges that is a thru-route for local traffic, Murawski said.
All three bridges are one-lane, have a three-ton weight limit and are equipped with a "headache bar."
The bar is a horizontal beam installed at the entrance to the bridge to block vehicles that are too tall for passage.
"The headache bar was put in because there were problems with hay wagons coming across and knocking out braces in the roof truss structure," Murawski said. "They never had a problem since then."
The original builder of the bridge is unknown, Murawski said.
The bridge was renovated at a cost of about $147,000. Lycoming Supply did the construction and Larson Design Group did the design.
The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, Murawski said.
The Buckhorn bridge, built in 1877, is the oldest, and, at 95 feet in length, the longest of the three covered bridges, Murawski said. It carries Township Road 784 over Larrys Creek in Cogan House Township and provides access only to a local hunting club.
The bridge is a "kingpost" design and is the only one of the three bridges in which the builder is known, Murawski said. It was built by Valentine Meyer of Quiggleville, he said.
"When it was built, their were a lot of tanneries and sawmills in the area, so it served a lot of commerce," Murawski said.
The bridge was rehabilitated at a cost of $105,000, Murawski said. Lycoming Supply and Larson Design Group also were involved in rehabilitating the bridge, he said.
The difference between the two rehabilitated bridges and the yet-to-be-fixed Lairdsville bridge is striking.
The most obvious is the latter's peeling paint, rotting wall boards and sagging headache bar. A closer inspection reveals large broken sections of the foundation walls.
According to Murawski, if the bridge is not fixed soon, it will be lost forever. That would be a shame, he said.
"If we don't take action now to restore the bridge, in three to five years, or one high water event, we'll lose it," he said. "The general condition of decay is extensive."
Unlike the first two bridges, which required replacement of select portions of the structures, the Lairdsville bridge will be almost entirely replaced, Murawski said.
"This is going to be the biggest rehab project of all three (bridges). We're pretty much going to recondition the whole bridge," he said. "We're going to rebuild this thing from bottom to top."
Once that is completed, the county will have preserved a vital piece of its history, said county Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland.
"It is important to preserve your historic heritage," Wheeland said. "Now we have the ability to show our children and grandchildren what a covered bridge looks like."