Tractor-trailer smashes historic Chesco covered bridge

Rapps Dam Road covered bridge, with a 10-foot height limit, after what police called a 13-foot-high truck crossed.
Rapps Dam Road covered bridge, with a 10-foot height limit, after what police called a 13-foot-high truck crossed.
Posted: May 01, 2014

EAST PIKELAND A tractor-trailer on Tuesday morning heavily damaged a historic covered bridge in East Pikeland Township that the state spent $1.5 million rehabilitating three years ago.

The truck was traveling from Route 23 to Route 113 when the driver went over the Rapps Dam Road covered bridge shortly before 10 a.m., damaging support beams on the roof and sides. The state bridge was built in 1866, reconstructed in 1978, and upgraded in 2011, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The truck was filled with potted plants and was on its way to make deliveries for Centerton Nursery in Bridgeton, N.J.

"It got through, but it took everything with it," said Cpl. Ben Martin of the East Pikeland Township Police Department.

Debris from the bridge was stuck on the truck after it pulled over, including the dedication plaque, which was sticking out from between the cab and the trailer, Martin said.

The truck also hit one of the height-limit signs approaching the bridge. The limit is 10 feet, but the truck is about 13 feet high, Martin said.

The driver of the truck, Antoine Branham 37, of Erial, has been working for the company for less than a week, police said.

The bridge is closed indefinitely, and the cost of the damage is not yet known, police said.

The bridge was closed for several months in 2011 while the state carried out upgrades, including replacing a deteriorated cedar shake roof, redwood siding, and decking. Crews also replaced steel beams that support the 106-foot long bridge, which spans French Creek.

East Pikeland Township Manager Kimberly Moretti said the historic bridge is a point of pride for the community and called the damage "heartbreaking."

"The bridge looks like it broke as easily as matchsticks," she said. "There is debris everywhere."


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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