Monday, June 28, 2010
Renovation of the more than 120 year-old Stone Bridge in Johnstown could begin soon. The Stone Bridge Project Committee has been raising funds to upgrade the bridge’s façade and install decorative and architectural lighting. The bridge is best know for the role it played in the Johnstown flood when debris piled up against it and caught fire. Johnstown area Heritage Association Executive Director Richard Burkert says the railroad has made structural repairs over the years but the work planed now “goes beyond the scope” of what the company would be expected to do. He says the bids for the work came in a bit higher than expected so the project has been split into two phases. The first phase will work on the cement façade of the structure to make it more aesthetically pleasing. That work will be paid for from private donations. Burkert says he expects it to cost about $80,000 plus the cost of hiring flagmen and other safety measures. The bridge spans the Conemaugh River, Iron Street and Route 65 and carries about 45 trains a day. Phase 2 will include the lighting of the bridge. Burkert says that bid came in much higher than expected but he feels a second bid will be much more reasonable. Penn DOT has offered to kick in $.5 million for the project. Private individuals have contributed more than $200,000. The fundraising effort is about 90% complete and Burkert says he thinks all the funding will be in place soon. The group is still taking donations. Work on the façade could begin in the coming weeks and Burkert says if all goes well the lighting could be done by the end of the year. The lighting (as seen in the artist’s rendering) both bathes the bridge in light and highlights aspects of the architecture using LED. Burkert says the work will, “turn this aesthetically challenged railroad bridge into something of an attraction for Johnstown.” The lights will be programmable and can change with the time of day or season, or can be programmed to help celebrate a special occasion. Burkert says the bridge can become part of the community’s life.