HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since 1928, the Market Street Bridge has connected the shores of the Susquehanna River.
“This bridge is nearly 100 years old, it’s really a work of art," said David Morrison, executive director of Historic Harrisburg Association. “It’s the gateway to downtown Harrisburg.”
However, time has taken its toll on the bridge.
PennDOT now has a six-year, $98 million plan to give it some TLC and restore utilities that currently live within the structure.
“That’s something none of us were really aware of," explained Morrison. "[PennDOT] discovered that would be too complicated to restore [the utilities] there without ripping the entire bridge apart.”
Instead, a separate utility truss bridge will be built on the downstream side to house those sewer, gas, and internet lines.
Renderings on PennDOT's website show what that could look like.
"By constructing the utility bridge and moving the utilities off the bridge, it will really shorten the impacts to local traffic," explained David Thompson, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 8.
PennDOT says there are also several other benefits to building the utility bridge:
- Can be constructed without long-term traffic control, i.e. lane reductions or detours.
- Reduces overall construction duration by 5 to 6 years because no temporary utility relocations are required.
- Limits temporary outages for all utilities because there will only be one outage for connecting new lines to existing lines.
- Eliminates future traffic disruptions by utility companies working on their facilities on Market St.
With the project start date inching closer, the Market Street Bridge has shot to the top of the Historic Harrisburg Association’s preservation priorities.
“It’s so prominent," said Morrison. "Thousands of people use it every day. It’s visible, it’s a historic landmark.”
The group has worked with PennDOT through the project planning process and fortunately, the two seem to be on the same page about protecting the bridge.
“We just want to make sure we retain the historical integrity of the bridge and don’t change that," said Thompson.
But the question remains, will the new utility bridge become an eyesore on the river?
“If it aligns properly with the existing Market Street Bridge it will be less conspicuous," said Morrison. "It won’t look like an eyesore and I think they’re really on track to try to design it so it will almost blend in.”
“I think it’s in the eye of the beholder but I definitely think it will impact the view of the bridge itself," added Thompson.
PennDOT hopes to have the project out for bid in 2024 and start construction in 2025.
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