A rehabbed, lit up Columbia-Wrightsville bridge: ‘It’ll really be a dramatic view’

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This photo from John Wright restaurant in Wrightsville, Pa., is undated but it must come from the late 1920s because the Veterans Memorial Bridge opened in 1930. Notice the now-dismantled older bridge to the left and the temporary, construction bridge on the downstream side. Background posts: Wrightsville’s overlooked attractions and When did Wrightsville ferry service end? and Nature had its way with short-lived York Furnace Bridge in southeastern York County.

A recent York Daily Record/Sunday News story on the restoration of lighting on the old Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge, brought applause from a commenter.
|”To me, the decision to restore the bridge is a no brainer,” he wrote. “Let’s do it!”
He also raised the question about when tolls were lifted from the Depression-era structure which carried the Lincoln Highway across the Susquehanna River:

“If memory serves me correctly, “The Bridge” was paid for by nickel tolls? Not sure what year it was but I believe I recall my parents, with me in the back seat and some other family friends, driving from our home in York to cross The Wrightsville Bridge because the toll was lifted a day or two before. Believe this might have been 1937 or 1938?”

The toll actually went away in the early years of World War II.
Because of its strategic location, the bridge served as a major checkpoint and was one of the first places that guards were posted right after Pearl Harbor.
All motorists were screened before crossing the mile-long structure.
In fact, shoeman Mahlon Haines got in trouble for possible gas rationing violations. Mahlon and his son sought to be the last and first motorists to cross the bridge when the tolls were lifted, as described in the post: Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge celebrates quiet birthday.
Here are some excerpts from the newspaper’s (5/14/09) story:

An icon that connects York and Lancaster counties could soon receive a bright facelift.
Officials from the Lancaster-York Heritage Region and Rivertownes PA USA unveiled plans recently in Columbia, Lancaster County, to revamp the Veterans Memorial Bridge with a new lighting system and gardens.
The art deco-style bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Structures, spans the Susquehanna River linking Wrightsville and Columbia along Rt. 462.
The project will return the bridge to how it looked when it was built more than 75 years ago, said Claire Storm, president of the local Rivertownes organization.
The project calls for new lights to be placed on the piers that line the bridge deck, new landscaping at bridge entrances, and possibly lighting under the bridge. The lights under the bridge would be installed on arch supports and shine upward to showcase the arches.
“It’ll really be a dramatic view you could see from one of the water-front parks or from Route 30,” said Shawn Good, a lighting engineer with Harrisburg-based Brinjac Engineering.
However, additional funding may be needed for the under-lighting phase of the project.
Though a firm construction date has yet to be set, once work starts the estimated $2.3 million project should be completed in a few months. Work would not inhibit traffic flow, Good said.
When the bridge, which first opened for traffic in 1930, was constructed, it boasted the same style deck lighting, and the wire pathways still exist.
All workers should need to do is take down the current “cobra” lights, run new wire, and install the new the lamps.
Lamps of different sizes and shapes are planned to be installed. They range from “lantern”-styled lamps to art deco street lamps.
Good said he had consulted the original lighting plans and was able to find a few of the original fixtures to use as a base for building the new castings.

LEARN MORE:
For more information about Rivertownes PA USA or to view the plans in full for the lighting project, go too www.rivertownes.org.
For help in sorting out the six bridges that have spanned the Susquehanna between Wrightsville and Columbia, click here.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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