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Repair of covered bridge damaged by a truck driver causing “headaches” for all involved

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The repair of a Pennsylvania covered bridge damaged by a truck driver is proving tricky for repair crews and people impacted by the road closure.

The incident occurred on November 20th in West Earl Township when 50-year-old truck driver Stacy Pater, tried to cross the Bitzer’s Mill covered bridge and got stuck on the roof support beams. The rig then caused further damage by trying to reverse out of the bridge.

 Charges against Pater, who is from Georgia, are still pending. 

According to Fox 43, the Blitzer’s Mill covered bridge is the oldest covered bridge still in use in Lancaster County. 

“It was built in 1846, so it’s got a lot of history to it,” said Joel Cliff, director of communications and advocacy for Discover Lancaster. 

“Understanding those signs is basic knowledge so it really shouldn’t happen,” said Neil Stoltzfus, roadmaster for West Earl Township. “That sign that says 10′ 6” is as big as I am.”

For now, the bridge is closed to traffic as officials work to figure out the best road to repair for the historic structure. PennDOT says repairs could take a while, but inspections revealed that there was no damage to the bridge deck, only damage to the upper supports. Officials say that the bridge will be fixed in 2024, but have not predicted a completion date. 

“Getting the materials is probably one of the big drivers of when the bridge can be repaired,” said David Thompson, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 8. “We have to use the same materials that the bridge was built with. The timbers have to be the same material.”

“It’s a heavily traveled road, there’s lots of traffic there throughout the year, and this time of year with winter weather, hopefully, we have it open sooner than later,” said Stoltzfus.

For now, there is a detour in place along Farmersville Road (Route 1010), Route 322 and Pleasant Valley Road.

“It’s a headache for everybody,” said Thompson. “It’s a headache for the folks who have to repair it, the folks impacted by the bridge and the person who hits it as well.”

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