The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation held an informational public meeting on November 19 at the DuBoistown Fire Hall to discuss the future of the Greater Williamsport area’s oldest bridge spanning the Susquehanna. They no doubt reviewed its history, but what is its history and its background.
The bridge that leads from Newberry to DuBoistown is referred by almost everyone as the “Arch Street Bridge”—this is incorrect.
According to a plaque on the northern end of the bridge on the Newberry side placed there in late 1924, the actual name of the bridge is the “DuBoistown Bridge.”
It is not known when the bridge went from being known as the DuBoistown Bridge to the Arch Street Bridge and there is no known explanation for this change of name.
It may be that because the main artery feeding the bridge from the Newberry side is Arch Street that locals decided to start referring to the bridge as the “Arch Street Bridge.”
This bridge is only 82 years old. Residents of both Newberry and DuBoistown pushed for the construction of a bridge that connected them over the Susquehanna as early as the late 1890s.
The idea was kicked around by the Lycoming County Commissioners for a number of years. By 1916 the prospect for the bridge became more serious and when it did it had a beneficial effect on real estate values.
The “Williamsport Sun” of May 9, 1916 reported, “The prospect a bridge connecting Newberry to DuBoistown has had a good effect on the value of property in Newberry has been excellent. Within a short while the price of lots within the section of Newberry nearest the proposed bridge. It was also reported that property in DuBoistown and the upper section of South Williamsport has also jumped in price.”
The first steps toward building the bridge came in June 1916 when John Yarrison, a well digger drilled several holes in the area on the approach to the possible bridge to determine the depth of rock formations in that area.
The work on the bridge began in earnest when on July 19, 1922 the Lycoming County Commissioners awarded a contract for a steel riveted truss bridge to the Bethlehem Steel Bridge Company at a bid of $271,170.
The bid that the Bethlehem company submitted was accepted because it was $101,660 less than the cost for a concrete bridge submitted by another firm.
The commissioners also believed that the construction of a concrete bridge with its six additional piers would create an increased flooding hazard because of the obstruction of passing water, particularly during ice flooding.
The plan for the steel bridge was not an ordinary type of steel bridge but one of a more modern design, using concrete sidewalks and creosote block floor.
In 1919, Lycoming County voters passed a $500,000 bond issue that helped to finance the cost of the new bridge.
County engineer Mark Krouse said that bridge that was constructed was of a heavier type of steel bridge than had ever been constructed in this area of the state.
The bridge was to have ornamental light standards on the piers and the bridge was to be painted “battleship gray.” The bridge was to be 1,500 feet long, with seven spans of 200 feet each on reinforced concrete piers.
There is no actual date as to when the DuBoistown Bridge actually formally opened but the “Grit” of December 7, 1924 reported, “The fill at the south end of the Newberry-DuBoistown bridge has been virtually completed. Several teams and wagons were used to transport and deposit the fill at the site during November. The bridge itself has been completed with excavations and a few concrete joists but the county commissioners refuse to formally open the bridge until the fill is completed at the south end of the bridge.”
When the bridge did open its first posted speed limit was 15 miles per hour.
It will be interesting to see what the future of this venerable old bridge and what the engineering plans and details and what the bridge alignment of a possible new bridge will be. The people of DuBoistown and Newberry no doubt anxiously await whatever decision may be made.