Danville-Riverside Bridge: The Making
of a Community Landmark
By Kenneth D. Klingerman, P.E., PENNDOT District
The design process and construction of the Danville-Riverside
Bridge was, to say the least, very unusual. It took nearly 15
years for the bridge to be designed with input into the design
aspects from community groups, local public officials and multiple
state agencies. The bridge itself was not only specially designed
with architectural details, but the roadway approach to the
bridge had to be located through the historic district of Danville.
Even though the design and construction of the bridge encountered
many challenges, they resulted in a beautiful landmark of which
everyone involved can be proud.
First, here is a little background on the project. The original
bridge that was replaced was a 7-span steel thru-truss that
carried two narrow lanes on an open steel deck. The bridge was
constructed in 1904 and spanned the North Branch of the Susquehanna
River between Montour and Northumberland Counties in Pennsylvania.
The bridge carried the heavy traffic of PA Route 54 that led
through the congested downtown area of Danville. By the time
the design process began, the bridge was antiquated and much
money was spent to maintain the bridge every year.
At the beginning of the final design, PENNDOT's District 3-0
and the local communities formed the Danville-Riverside Community
Design Group (CDG). The group ended up consisting of more than
30 residents and local officials who met 16 times during a year-and-a-half
time span. Their mission was to work through a wish list of
aesthetic treatments that were developed during the environmental
phase of the project. Because of this group's dedication, the
new bridge ties the two communities together functionally and
aesthetically with a historical character rarely seen in today's
The new bridge is a seven span structure that has its six piers
and its abutments wrapped with concrete formliners to give the
appearance of natural stone treatments. The original bridge's
piers and abutments were constructed of natural cut stone. The
bridge's beams are haunched steel girders fabricated from weathered
steel. The main spans are 225 feet long and the end spans are
160 feet in length. The weathered steel was chosen because it
represented the historical iron manufacturing heritage of the
area. For the same reason the CDG chose a metal pedestrian railing
with an antique look. A pedestrian alcove was placed over each
pier that affords a comfortable spot from which to fish, socialize,
or to view the beautiful scenery. The entrance of the bridge
in Danville is graced with pylons with ornamental lighting,
architectural detailing and brick masonry. This resembles the
architectural elements of the Montour County Courthouse, which
is located a block away in Danville.
The new bridge is located one block to the south of the original
bridge on the Danville side of the river in order to alleviate
traffic in downtown Danville and also to better align with the
remainder of PA Route 54. The location of the new bridge resulted
in the new highway going through the historic district of Danville.
Because of the close location of historic homes to the highway,
innovative ideas had to be used to avoid any damage to these
homes. The historic district actually sits upon a small hill.
It was decided to construct the highway at a lower level than
the neighborhood to reduce the level of vehicular noise and
avoid cutting the neighborhood in half.
The method to construct the underpass is called cut and cover.
Cut and cover is a process where the ground is excavated vertically
to the grade of the highway and a bridge structure is placed
above the excavated area, which is at the same level as the
original ground and streets. The end result looks much like
a tunnel, but it is not bored. Because of the historical area,
a pile driving method for soil stabilization was out of consideration.
The process chosen to excavate the cut is called deep soil mixing.
The deep soil mixing consisted of using a gang of 30-inch augers
driven by a 150-ton crane. The augers mixed the soil and a cement
slurry was introduced as they penetrated the ground to a final
depth of 35 feet. After the augers were withdrawn, an H-pile
was pushed into every other hole. The final product was a reinforced
soil cement wall with the consistency of Play Doh. This did
not have the strength to stand alone after excavation for the
underpass was completed and had to be supplemented by internal
braces and struts. The reinforced soil cement wall made the
vertical excavation easier because the original soil, which
was very sandy, was susceptible to collapse. Small, specialized
equipment was used to excavate. The excavation was very slow
in order to work around and under the struts. After this was
completed, storm drainage was installed and construction of
the concrete rigid frame began. Work for the cut and cover was
completed in August 2000.
When the Community Day/Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held in
July 2001 for the new bridge, more than 1,000 residents attended
to join in the celebration. It had taken 18 years to make the
dream a reality.
In March 2002, the Danville-Riverside Bridge and Underpass
Projects walked away with three statewide quality awards, including
the highest honors, at the 7th Annual Pennsylvania Transportation
Industry Spring Conference. The project took top honors in the
categories of Community Support/Customer Focus and Design. It
also took top honors in the coveted statewide best-of-the-best
award-Project Recognition for the Pennsylvania Partnership for
Highway Quality (PPHQ) Awards. In addition, the ribbon cutting
won 1st place for special events at AASHTO's 2001 National Transportation
Public Affairs Workshop.
The award honors PENNDOT Engineering District 3-0, contractors
Susquehanna Supply Company (Williamsport, PA) and G.A. &
F.C. Wagman (York, PA), preliminary and environmental engineering
by McCormick, Taylor and Associates (Harrisburg, PA), final
design by Gannett Fleming, Inc. (Camp Hill, PA), and inspection
consultant Larson Design Group (Williamsport, PA).
The projects are a testament of how the input and coordination
of various diverse groups and organizations can make a very
challenging project become a success.
I would like to give credit to Judy Hricak (Gannett Fleming,
Inc.), John Ryan, P.E. (McTish, Kunkel and Associates), and
Rick Mason (PENNDOT District 3-0) for their contributions to
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