Victory taxpayers concerned about bridge replacement cost

Staff writer

The $2 million cost to replace the Fisherman’s Cove Bridge seemed to be the foremost concern in people’s minds at Monday night’s Victory Township supervisors meeting.

The century-old bridge became a local landmark when the township acquired the old railroad right-of-way in 1990, and local volunteers built a wood covering over the original structure.

The bridge spans Victory Run as it enters Sandy Creek and provides the only means of road access to a Fish and Boat Commission boat ramp and the few permanent and temporary residences at Fisherman’s Cove.

The bridge was recently determined to be structurally unsound, prompting the township to enlist PennDOT in a replacement project.

PennDOT project manager Mike McMullen, who attended Monday’s meeting, said the funding would be 80 percent federal, 15 percent state and five percent from the township, amounting to about a $100,000 expense for the township.

“Understandably that was a big concern,” McMullen said. “What we’re going to do is look for some financing options that will ease that burden.”

Another concern for some residents is the story behind the wood covering, which was built by Gene Gibbs, a township supervisor at the time, with help from volunteer VisionQuest teens.

Gene Gibbs’ widow, Rose, who also attended Monday’s meeting, said her first thought was to save the bridge based on what it means to the township.

McMullen said the bridge doesn’t qualify as a historic covered bridge because the covering is a recent addition and not part of the original structure.

At Monday’s meeting, however, Rose Gibbs set aside sentiment in favor of sensibility, focusing on the cost to the township taxpayers in her arguments.

“I presented how we taxpayers of this township couldn’t afford such a huge outlay,” Gibbs said. “It was like what I said made no difference at all, so I don’t know where we’re going from here.”

The project will involve building a temporary bridge to maintain access to Fisherman’s Cove, McMullen said, adding that, at the township’s request, the replacement bridge will be single-lane like its predecessor.

“That cuts down on cost, and traffic on that road is not terribly heavy,” McMullen said.

The project is scheduled to begin in 2021.

None of the township supervisors could be reached Tuesday.