Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge

Sunday, May 20, 2012 |

A nice Sunday in May was a great time to walk across the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which spans the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and is the link between the two towns of Columbia and Wrightsville that are themselves located between the bigger towns of Lancaster and York. It's a low, 2-lane bridge, about a mile long, built in 1930, and not very busy thanks to the much newer Highway Route 30 Bridge that is just to the north. The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge is officially named the Veteran's Memorial Bridge, but there are many with that name across the country, and it is more commonly known by the two towns that it connects. There have been multiple bridges at the same location over the past two centuries, with one of them playing a role in the Civil War when Union forces burned it in order to keep Confederate troops--a small part of Robert E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania that ended with Gettysburg--from crossing into Lancaster County and making a move toward Harrisburg 30 miles to the north (see blog post by Norman Gasbarro for a nice description of the battle and burning).

But the current bridge isn't a good candidate for burning, being a concrete structure, with multiple arches; in fact when built, it was the world's longest multiple-arch concrete bridge, if you're into records for bridge subtypes. Except for its length, it seems like a small town bridge, with a 6-foot wide sidewalk that is separated from the roadway by just a little curb. With a speed limit of 40 miles per hour, that would normally not be a big problem for walkers, but let's face it, people don't really drive the speed limit, and the barrier on the water side of the bridge is just above waist level, not all that satisfying, providing the not great choice of walking very close to traffic or the edge. Fortunately the roadway itself is very wide for just 2 lanes, so the cars tend to stay toward the middle of the road and leave the walkers to admire the views off the bridge.

Walking across the bridge, we got nice views of the Susquehanna River down to the south and the Route 30 Bridge to the north. A number of joggers were using the bridge. Just a nice, pleasant walk--except for the cars and the low side rails. We started from the Columbia side to the east, parking just a couple of blocks away from the bridge at the corner of North 2nd and Chestnut Streets. And after walking partway across the bridge and returning to the car, I drove the car across the bridge, with the theory of course being that if you can walk across a bridge, you can drive across it too. Strangely, when driving, you can't even see over the edge to water, because the side railings are solid and set just high enough to obstruct the views. That doesn't seem to be allowed with newer bridges, because people seem to want their bridges to afford majestic views, even though it seems that the drivers should be concentrating on driving; but maybe that's just me.

So, this one was a nice bridge to walk across. As for the scariness rating, I'd give it a 5 for length, a 4 for the width (being close to the roadway and with moderately low, though solid side railings), and a 3 for height (I can't find a reference to its average height above water, so I go by what I see). That's a 12 rating overall, a bit on the higher side of average for our walks.