• State won't rebuild Kinzua Bridge

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania

Moderator: bwparker1

  by thebigham

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

State won't rebuild viaduct

Citing a lack of funds, Gov. Ed Rendell has decided not to rebuild the Kinzua Viaduct.

"We are not going to rebuild the bridge because it is cost-prohibitive," explained Abe Amoros of the Governor's press office late Tuesday afternoon.

"The decision was made late last week on the senior executive level," he added.

"We simply don't have the $40 million plus to rebuild," Amoros said, "but we will still be making a significant investment in the visitors/interpretive center, stabilizing the remainder of the bridge and the valley floor cleanup."

He explained the parts of the bridge that fell to the floor of the Kinzua Gorge during the tornado July 21 will be cleaned up as part of the plan for the future of the Kinzua Bridge State Park.

In addition, the visitor's center will feature a history of the engineering for the bridge, Amoros explained, and will have "a component that highlights the demise at the hands of Mother Nature."

Work will be done to improve the road and parking lot and to stabilize the remaining nine towers on the bridge.

The intention is to "make the entire project more popular and attractive to the residents of the area," he explained. The governor was recently quoted in area media as having said the bridge "may have more appeal as a tourist attraction in its current state than it did when it was an intact bridge."

Few details about the future of the bridge were available on Tuesday, and even fewer were available as to where the money might come from to pay for the changes and improvements called for at the park.

Amoros did not have any information on the possibility of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. McKean County was declared a disaster area following the tornado and several heavy storms that swept through the area in July.

FEMA had done a site assessment and was going to make a report to the governor.

The park, as with all state parks, falls under the auspices of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Gretchen Leslie, press secretary for the DCNR, explained that DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis supports the governor's decision.

"The secretary was fully aware of the governor's decision, and he agreed that this is the direction that makes the most sense for the Commonwealth," Leslie reported.

"More information will become available as funding sources are available," she said. She added that the governor's decision has been one of the proposals the DCNR outlined from the start.

The other two proposals were to rebuild or to just leave the bridge as it was left by the tornado.

While the decision was finalized last week, few people had been informed that the viaduct would not be rebuilt.

State Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, was surprised by the news, but said -- realistically -- it was anticipated.

"For economic reasons, I could see it coming," he said. "Forty-five million, that's certainly a lot of money. There's a lot we can do with $45 million.

"We've got a lot of highways that need rebuilt," he said.

He added that he would like more information on the governor's intentions, specifically what is meant by cleaning up the valley floor.

"I think they should leave (the fallen pieces) intact so people can come and look at it," Causer said. "I don't believe they should haul it out of there, no."

Hauling it out would be costly, he surmised, as there are 11 towers -- including the tallest ones on the viaduct -- now on the floor of the Kinzua Gorge.

"I do think we have to continue to urge them to fix up that park," Causer added. "That park is sitting in a beautiful area."

Since the tornado, the Kinzua Bridge Foundation, at www.kinzuabridgeonline.com, has been raising donations for the future of the park.

"That is a shame," president Bill Kilmer said. He had not known of the governor's decision prior to a call from The Era. "That's a piece of history that we hate to lose all together.

"It's really disappointing," he said. "We don't have much of in this area anymore going for us. We've got to have something here in the future."

Speaking about the funds raised since the viaduct fell, Kilmer said, "We do have money put aside to help rebuild the bridge or to do something in the park itself. It can only be used in the Kinzua Bridge State Park."

The foundation has been working on a campaign in the surrounding counties to collect funds for the bridge as well.

"We're going to have to re-address some things," Kilmer said. "We're not going to give up."
  by rnetzlof
I'm of two minds on this. Yes, I was saddened to hear of the collapse. But I'm not sure rebuilding the bridge would get me anything I want.

It was moving to walk across the bridge and think of it's history, it's longevity, the traffic which had passed across it. Standing below it, looking up, was mind-boggling. Once, before it was a state park, I amused myself by dropping rocks into the creek and oh my, it took a long time for them to fall.

But would there be the same "kick" to visiting a bridge built in 2004 (or 2005)? I don't think so. I know what it looked like before the fall, I don't need a 1:1 scale model to tell me that.

I picture a guide saying "Yes, this bridge was built in 2005 so you folks here in 2075 would be able see what it looked like before it blew away in 2003. Don't try to use it to study early 20th century engineering, it's new. It has been used only by an excursion train which brought people here just to see it. No freight train has ever crossed it. Nothing of any importance has been carried on it. No cars from faraway places have rolled along its track. No immigrants from the Old World crossed it on their way to a new life. It's just here for you to look at."

Being able to have that doesn't seem to me to be worth the price.

That said, the permanent loss of the bridge will be a kick in the head to the excursion train. That, in turn, will probably make the McKean County tourism promotion people unhappy, along with motel and restaurant owners.

Before somebody hops in and says that the bridge must be rebuilt and the excursion train, the motels, and the restaurants should bear the cost of replacement, I'll point out that there is no chance that they have that kind of money sitting in their bank accounts. They just don't have it. If they did, they wouldn't be worrying about promoting tourism.

Now, leaving things as they are might prove to be almost as good as if it had never fallen. It's not every day you get to see the remains of a catastrophe on that scale. There may, however, be safety concerns which would make that infeasible. I have no idea how stable the bits and pieces lying about in the valley are, and if something were to collapse or roll over on Thomas T. Citizen while he was walking by.... Can you say Megabuck Lawsuit?

It seems to me I just have to suck it up and say "It was nice while it lasted. Too bad it didn't last longer." Lots of things are like that. As someone remarked, "This too shall pass."

I guess the collapse does confirm the engineering judgement of the fellow who closed it to trains and pedestrians the summer before.

  by HBTM M-39
I've come to somewhat the same conclusion as you, Bob.

To me, having the bridge left in the state it currently is would be the best solution. I don't really need a reconstructed version to tell me anything about its engineering methods; even though I'll miss having the chance to ride across it.

My only concern is the financial blow to the area. Hopefully the Knox & Kane won't be badly crippled by the loss. Anyone know how they've been doing since the bridge was closed to rail traffic?


  by nick plate
I too, have mixed feelings about the state not rebuilding. I have probably walked across the bridge 15-20 times over the years, and was always impressed, just by the view and "listening" to the wind or silence of the beautiful area. I visited in November and saw the damage first-hand. Pictures don't really give you the real idea how destructive that storm was. Just along the pathways to the bridge overlooks there must be dozens of trees that were felled. I was really surprised and see a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done. At least the park will re-main open and is a great place just for a picnic or some quiet time.Hopefully, the train will still run to the edge of the bridge, possibly using a diesel on one end for push-pull operation, since the "Y" was on the other side of the bridge.