HARMONY — The bridge carrying Main Street over railroad tracks received a less-than-stellar review during its last PennDOT inspection, and the entity responsible for its maintenance has been generally unresponsive to the borough’s request for an inspection.
During a May 2018 inspection by PennDOT, the bridge received a score of four — indicating a poor condition — on its superstructure, which bears the load of vehicles and pedestrians on the bridge, according to documents obtained by the Eagle via a state open records request.
According to an agreement signed in December 1977, the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad company is responsible for the maintenance of the Main Street bridge, as well as its retaining walls. Harmony is responsible for maintaining the road approaches to the bridge.
The superstructure’s poor score came from chipping, spalling, cracking and deterioration of areas on the underside of the bridge, along with “several” cracks and rust stains. The substructure of the bridge received a score of five — for a fair condition — due to missing mortar, chipping and deteriorating stones and cracks. The deck received the same score, as potholes, cracks and wheel ruts were forming.
Matthew Racunas, the borough’s solicitor, sent a letter to the railroad in June requesting it inspect the bridge and perform necessary repairs “to alleviate future dangers” to Harmony residents.
“Today, the borough has determined that its condition is unsafe and poses a health and safety hazard to the residents of Harmony Borough,” the June 4, 2019, letter stated. “In fact, there have been several falls on the bridge recently.”
A follow-up letter in September yielded a response from the railroad, Racunas said at the Feb. 4 borough council meeting. A letter from an attorney representing the railroad indicated it disagreed with PennDOT’s report.
“In the attorney’s letter, he didn’t deny the fact that they have the maintenance responsibility. It’s not like they said, ‘Well, no, that’s not ours,’ ” Racunas said. “He said they acknowledge that but just said, ‘We don’t see that anything needs to be done.’ ”
Frank Grannon, the borough’s director of operations, said conditions have continued to deteriorate since its May inspection. Greg Such, borough council president, said one problem he foresaw if the bridge went unmaintained is that Harmony Fire District vehicles might not be able to cross it to get to Route 68.
“The only concern there is if something happens and we end up closing that bridge,” Such said.