Historic Westmoreland County covered bridge damaged in hit-and-run
Part of Bells Mills Road was closed this week after a portion of Westmoreland County’s last covered bridge was damaged in a hit-and-run.
County engineer Vaughn Neill said a state trooper reported the damage on Bells Mills Bridge.
“Somebody struck this, we don’t know who, we don’t know when,” Neill said.
He and a consultant inspected the span that connects South Huntingdon and Sewickley townships Thursday morning, a day after the closure. The damage appears minor — a few pieces of wooden railing on the South Huntingdon side were ripped off of their supports and an end post that holds up the roof was hit. The county owns the bridge.
“I erred on the side of caution,” Neill said. “Whatever struck (the end post) moved it downstream 8 or 10 inches.”
The red wooden bridge was built in 1850 over Sewickley Creek by architect Daniel McCain. The county completely rebuilt it in 1988, eight years after it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The structure was named for the Bell brothers who operated a nearby gristmill in the 19th century.
The bridge was damaged in a fire in 2009 and a 6-foot section of siding was replaced. Three years later, a $157,000 maintenance project included pressure washing, a coat of fire retardant paint and a new roof.
The consultant who inspected the bridge Thursday will make some recommendations to the county as to how to fix the recent damages. In the meantime, Neill said he planned to ask the county’s road department about a temporary fix that would allow the road to be reopened soon.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.