Aug 6, 2008

8th Street Bridge

When opened for traffic on November 17, 1913, with seventeen spans, the Albertus L. Meyers Bridge, then known as the Eighth Street Bridge, was the longest and highest reinforced concrete arch bridge in the world.
The Lehigh Valley Transit Company organized the Allentown Bridge Company in 1911 for the sole purpose of building the bridge. The bridge was designed by the engineering firm of B.H. Davis and built by McArthur Brothers of New York City. Costing in excess of $500,000, construction of the bridge required 29,500 cubic yards (22,600 m³) of concrete and 1.1 million pounds of metal reinforcing rods.
The structure operated as a toll bridge from its November 17, 1913 opening until the 1950s, at which time the toll was five cents for an automobile. The concrete standards that once supported the trolley wire are still standing on the bridge to this day.*
This iconic bridge is a monument to our industrial history; epicenter of both the coment and steel industries. Unfortunately, under the current Pawlowski Administration, which has no knowledge of local history, and no experienced technical personnel, the bridge is suffering. Weeds and undergrowth are being allowed to penetrate the roadbed. Spalling concrete is not being replaced, submitting the reinforcing rods to rust.
UPDATE: Harry C. Trexler, founding member of the Transit Company and Lehigh Portland Cement Co., was a principle player in the construction of this bridge. General Trexler's gravesite, in Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street, affords unique views of the bridge and center city Allentown.

Painting of Bridge: by John E. Berninger, 1933, a contemporary of Walter Baum.



Anonymous said...


Is this a Pawlowski issue or a city issue? I don't remember any recent administration (going back to the Heydt days) taking proper care of the bridge.

The Banker

michael molovinsky said...

banker, that is a fair question. i certainly assign blame to pawlowski, also as community development director under afflerbach. I do not recall the weeds under heydt, but if you do, i stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily recall weeds, but I sure don't recall anyone working on the bridge to maintain it.

I think you pointed out in an earlier post that there are bridges in Europe that are centuries old and just fine - amazing what regular care and preventive maintenance will do and it saves large $$ in the long run.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

The bridge is owned by PennDot. Pawlowski or the city have little to do with it.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 2:50, your comment reminds me of the apologist who said we couldn't scrape and paint the rails on the 15th st. bridge because of lead near the water works. letting weeds and underbrush grow into the concrete, which in turn lets water enter and freeze and crack the concrete etc, is inexcusable. here's a idea, next time rendell comes with a cardboard check for pawlowski and cunningham, how about having the press conference on the bridge, and let those three fakers pick some weeds on the way-MICHAEL MOLOVINSKY

Anonymous said...

As to the 15th Street bridge, it was closed (again) on Tuesday.

The city is throwing money away trying to patch a bridge which is slated to be completely replaced. That (replacement) work was slated to begin last year but put off by the city.

Perhaps it is just the way Allentown moves forward.

Anonymous said...

Legal question here - if the bridge is owned by PennDOT, can the city legally do anything regarding maintenance?

If so, this is another case of lawyers run amok (OT but relevant).

The Banker

michael molovinsky said...

if the state can encourage organizations to pick up trash along busy highways, (adopt a road program), surely the city could pick some weeds on the bridge.

Bill Villa said...

MM, I think the bridge ownership/maintenance responsibility issue needs to be researched better and resolved before Mayor Pawlowski is blamed.

michael molovinsky said...

mr. villa, the inspiration for this posting came from mrs. dotties blog, where the community development director was pondering that perhaps because the bridge is so iconic, it should be lit up. i believe after cunningham campaigned about the linden st bridge, pawlowski as both community development director under afflerbach, and now as mayor for 2.5 years, should be more conscious about the weeds growing out of the bridge. but i suppose first, allentown must hire a consultant and do a study about weeds, bridges and bureaucratic fakers.!!! i have no patience for such excuses; if pawlowski got penndot to move from lehigh st. to hamilton, why can't he get them to pull the weeds on a icon which could not be replaced.

Sarina said...

I love the painting you posted, but I can't recall where I've seen it before. Somewhere online..?

michael molovinsky said...

sarina, i took the painting from the footnoted wikipedia site, but i also have seen the painting elsewhere?

Bill Villa said...

MM, we just drove over the 8th Street Bridge and the weeds are really bad. Word of advice: no need to scream, foam at the mouth, and attack anyone personally. I have found that a measured, patient, and civil approach works best when trying to influence people in Allentown, PA.

Squirrel said...

My great grandfather was president of Lehigh Valley Transit when this bridge was built. As such I have always appreciated the beauty of this structure.

It is a beautiful bridge and the condition of it is terrible. Not only is it a vital link to travel in and around Allentown it is a historic architectural structure.

Regardless of who owns the bridge, that does not prevent anyone from making an effort to do what needs to be done.

So often in this city I hear of so many grandiose plans and great ideas. The shame is many of them are totally ill conceived often by indivduals who do not know Allentown. And ultimately many of those will never work, in the long run, anyway.

In other cases nothing ever gets done unless of course it has to do with a tax fee commercial building or involves a liquor license.

We gotta find a way to make this work.

cjginpa said...

Now that the 15th St. Bridge has been repaired you'd think the city would come by with a power washer. New blacktop and painted rails get lost with the filthy concrete walls and sidwalk.

Bernie O'Hare said...

While I tend to think of this as a PENDOT problem, I really appreciate the history of this bridge. It's amazing.

Anonymous said...

Squirrel -

You are right about grandoise plans.

A basic responsibility of any municipality is to provide adequate public safety to protect its residents and the infrastructure necessary to foster private investment in the city.

Focusing on the basics - like public safety and fixing the city's roads and bridges - would do more to revitalize Allentown than all the cardboard checks and KOZ's combined.

Joyce Marin said...

These comments about weeds kept nagging at me, so today I made a couple of phone calls today to determine exactly who is in charge of this. Sorry. Until today I didn't know.

It turns out that the Sweep Program, administered through the City of Allentown's Bureau of Recycling, are the ones to call. So call I did. Now we'll all have to keep our eyes peeled to see how long it takes for the weeds to disappear.

Now you know who to call when out of control weeds are bothering you.

michael molovinsky said...

joyce, thank you for making the call, and posting the comment. i inquired to a former city employee who indicated the bridge itself was controlled by penndot. i tried calling them and didn't succeed getting past a electronic mailbox. regardless of who's in charge, those weeds are destructive to an irreplaceable icon. your interest in the bridge is the best thing that could have happen to it.