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Community rallies to keep 19th century bridge in Berks

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 22 2014 04:42:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2014 05:46:20 PM CDT

Community members in Berks County are rallying to save an old bridge from being demolished.

ONTELAUNEE TWP., Pa. -

Community members in Berks County are rallying to save an old bridge from being demolished.

Wiley’s Bridge is an 1880s Whipple truss bridge in Ontelaunee Township that sits in a constant state of disrepair. It was closed to vehicle traffic in 2011 and would cost $1.5 million to rehabilitate.

But, the bridge is still close to the hearts of many in Berks County.

"I ride my bike across it. We walk across it all the time. I love it. I do not want it to leave," said Jacob Kiene, of Leesport.

That is why several community members gathered as part of WEEU's "Save the Bridge" broadcast to express their support for the structure.

"We need to stop taking away the historical parts of Berks County," said Nancy James, of Perry Township.

Berks County would have to use liquid fuels money to rehabilitate the bridge. The county commissioners agreed to spend the $1.5 million if Ontelaunee Township took over ownership of the bridge after the repairs, but the township is not on board, and in order to use the liquid fuels money, the bridge has to be open for vehicle traffic, not just walkers and bicyclists.

"I would like to just see it just stay the way it is. For me, I ride a bike and stuff and I like it the way it is," said Charles Orr, of Ontelaunee Township.

Although some want the bridge to stay as it is, the county said it is a liability.

"Pieces fall into the creek. We end up with issues with DEP. You just can not leave a bridge sit forever and a day. You have got to make a decision on it," said Berks County Comissioner Kevin Barnhardt.

There is also an offer on the table to possibly relocate the bridge to Alabama.

If the bridge is not relocated and Ontelaunee Township does not take over ownership, the county will spend $390,000 to demolish it.