Touring Bethlehem's Historic Bridges

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
CEE students and LVASCE members on the Beckel Bridge in Bethlehem.

A group of Lehigh civil engineering students were joined by local professionals and members of the Lehigh Valley Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (LV-ASCE) for the organization's tenth annual Bethlehem bridge tour.

Departing from the historic Fritz Laboratory, the group visited the Phillip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge on both north and south ends before stopping at Sand Island for a walking tour of smaller bridges on and around the old Lehigh Canal. The final destination was the Hill to Hill Bridge, which carries Route 378 over the Lehigh River, and several steel railroad bridges in the vicinity.

The students ranged from sophomore undergraduates to the Master level. Gregory Kuklinski '98, Project Manager at Alfred Benesch & Company, led the tour. He took his first bridge tour as a student with Ben Yen, emeritus professor of structural engineering, in 1997.

Below are pictures from the tour with information about the bridges visited.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
The Fahy Bridge was built in 1972 and rehabbed in 1990. This is the south end of the bridge, which is travelled over by more than 17,000 cars per day. On the south approach, it's a girder-slab bridge with weathering steel.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
Greg Kuklinski points out the differences between the south end and this, the north end of the Fahy Bridge, to the students and engineers on the tour. The north side is a rigid-frame bridge supported by a concrete foundation that extends ten feet below the bed of the Lehigh River.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
On Sand Island stands the Beckel Bridge which is a cast iron pony truss. Built shortly after the American Civil War, the Beckel Bridge stood on Township Line Road over the Monocacy Creek in Bethlehem until 1991, when it was relocated back to Sand Island over the Monocacy Creek where it was built at a foundry that used to sit close to the site.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
The group stands over the old Lehigh Canal at Lock #42 which was built in 1827 and was originally constructed by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to carry anthracite between the Lehigh Valley and Jim Thorpe to Philadelphia. The bridge here was originally wooden but got replaced in 1972. The Canal is no longer in operation.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
Through one of the concrete arches of the Hill to Hill Bridge, you can see both the Fahy Bridge and the old Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces. Until the 1990s, this version of the Hill to Hill Bridge was the only concrete bridge on the Lehigh River in the vicinity of Bethlehem Steel. It's the fourth iteration of the bridge, built in 1924 after 30 years of planning following the destruction of the third wooden bridge on this space by a flood.

Bethlehem Bridge Tour 2015
Bethlehem Steel still had a say in the bridgework in this particular area, however. Its steel trusses were a part of the Hill to Hill (as seen on the left in the distance), while it also built two steel railroad bridges in the immediate vicinity of Hill to Hill (one of them, a through truss, is seen here on the right).

By John Gilpatrick



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