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Muddy Run Bridge to close mid-September

Danielle Ryan

(8/23) Muddy Run Bridge, located on Route 116 near the Highland Township office, will officially be closing the third week of September.

Even after much public concern, The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penn DOT) refused to budge on its plan to close Route 116 completely in Highland Township and Fairfield. The complete closure of both lanes will pose a significant change to the way residents, businesses, and tourists navigate their way in and out of the area while the bridge over Muddy Run is replaced.

In a letter written to Supervisor Robert Gordon of Hamiltonban Township by Project Manager Gary Kleist of Penn DOT, leaving one lane open or installing a temporary bridge would "add considerable costs and cause a much longer inconvenience." For emergency vehicles, the letter says, Penn DOT "has identified a 3.3 mile detour" over Cold Springs and Carroll’s Tract roads. The emergency detour "is not being signed as the primary detour in an attempt to not put an undue burden on the maintenance of the local transportation network," Kleist wrote.

That route is "dangerous," Fairfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Bill Jacobs said citing two one-lane bridges, a roadway too narrow for two large vehicles going in opposite directions, many curves and hills, and dark conditions.

Route 116 is the main artery into Hamiltonban, Fairfield, Carroll Valley, and other surrounding communities. It is the main road for emergency responders transporting people to Gettysburg Hospital.

Both proposed detours for the bridge closure are logistically a nightmare and will add 15-20 minutes conservatively to police, fire, and emergency responders – especially those who drive for Adams Regional Emergency Medical Services (AREMS); AREMS provides both basic life support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS) services to over 15 municipalities in Adams County. Jacobs alleged that Penn DOT is choosing "profit" over public safety by choosing to close the highway instead of closing one lane at a time or installing a temporary bridge. "There are going to be accidents," Jacobs said, calling the route completely inadequate for tractor-trailers.

Though the emergency detour reaches into Hamiltonban Township, the bridge itself, approximately a mile east of Fairfield, is in Highland Township, where Craig Rockey chairs the Board of Supervisors. He said that he had a half-hour conversation with a Penn DOT official and they (Penn DOT) were "unmoved" by the concern of the local municipalities.

The original plan was to start the project in June and complete it in September, right as the school year was starting. However, the project was pushed back and will now just be starting mid – September. The project is estimated to take about 10 weeks, pushing the bridge closure into the end of November.

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