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11.24.2019

The Stunning Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge Across the Susquehanna River

The Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge/Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Susquehanna River is a historic part of the old Lincoln Highway. The first major transcontinental highway route, leading from New York City to San Francisco, crossed the mighty Susquehanna in this location. Upon initial construction, it carried the main routing of the Lincoln Highway/Route 30 in Pennsylvania. When the routing changed, the bridge was given PA Route 462 and is still designated as being a part of the old Lincoln Highway. It was dedicated as the Veterans Memorial Bridge when it was opened to the public on Armistice Day in 1930.
The size and scope of this bridge is thoroughly impressive. Measuring in at over a mile, at a whopping 6,657 feet with 48 different swooping concrete arch spans, this bridge is both functional and graceful. The longest span is 185 feet, and the bridge is 48 feet wide. It was designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a World Engineering Landmark, saying that it is  "a splendid example of the graceful multiple-span, reinforced-concrete arched form popular in early 20th Century highway bridges in the United States."

After 90 years of service, this bridge is still considered to be the world's longest multi-span reinforced concrete arch bridge. The Wiley-Maxon Construction company designed and built the bridge in 1930 at a cost of $2,484,000, which in pure dollar inflation cost would be over 38 million today. Inflation cost though is not necessarily a good window into what the bridge would cost to build today for a river crossing up in Lewisburg on Route 15 is in the middle of construction and expected to cost 156 million, granted that modern bridge is set up to have much more clearance over the river and expected to handle more lanes of traffic.
The sheer elegance of this bridge makes it both noteworthy and historically significant. They paid great attention to making this bridge aesthetically pleasing with embellished concrete details in every way. 

Note the adjacent bridge piers. They were used for three other different bridges. The second bridge crossing here was a covered bridge that was completed in 1834. In June of 1863, the Confederate Army had captured the city of York and planned to advance to Lancaster, Harrisburg, and further free points in the Northeast. Heroic Pennsylvania Militia Men attempted to blow up the covered bridge, but ended up being unsuccessful.
Painting by Bradley Schmehl
They then soaked the bridge in oil and lit it on fire. This heroic action kept the Confederates from advancing any further, setting them up for the Battle of Gettysburg and their retreat and ultimate defeat. 
This Susquehanna River crossing is historically significant in so many ways, with perhaps the largest of which being the expansion of freedom and viability of our nation. The current ornate and beautiful bridge is a wonderful monument to this that will hopefully remain for all time.

It is easy to check out this bridge, with tremendous views at the Columbia River Park. We highly recommend checking out this stunning bridge along the historic Lincoln Highway Corridor. 


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