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Efforts underway to save historic bridge from wrecking ball

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 31 2013 05:28:44 PM CDT

The fate of a bridge in Berks County is in the hands of the county commissioners, but a group of people is now fighting to save it.

ONTELAUNEE TWP., Pa. -

The fate of a bridge in Berks County is in the hands of the county commissioners, but a group of people is now fighting to save it.

The Wiley Bridge sits quietly tucked away in Ontelaunee Township.

"It is a beautiful bridge.  It is a really interestingly done metal bridge from the 1880s.  It is near Blue Falls Grove," said Donna Reed with the Historical Review of Berks County.

But the bridge has been shut down for almost two years because, in its current condition, it is unfit for vehicle use. 

The commissioners said they looked into several solutions, including a temporary patch on the bridge or a complete rehabilitation, however, the township was not on board with any of the options, so commissioners decided to demolish it this fall.

"A Whipple truss bridge is a very unusual bridge, but at the end of the day, I have to weigh the cost of running county government and those things that are really needed, versus utilizing that amount of local public tax dollars to rehabilitate a historical landmark," said Comissioner Kevin Barnhardt.

Even if the bridge is not reopened for vehicles, Reed said she would like to see it rehabilitated for recreational purposes.

"I think there is an adaptive use for this. Everyone who uses it; the bicyclist in this county, walkers, just recreational use.  It would be really terrific if someone, some entity could come forward and do something with it," said Reed.

But unless someone steps forward, the bridge will be demolished this fall.