After years of planning and fundraising, a contractor is set to move forward with lighting a historic Johnstown bridge.
Organizers of the Stone Bridge project say they’ve raised enough money – including about $260,000 from local businesses and residents – to install programmable LED lights on the 124-year-old span.
The project, which also includes facade improvements, will cost more than $1 million and is scheduled for completion this fall.
“Everything’s in place,” said Mike Brosig, a Johnstown businessman serving as the project’s co-chairman.
The bridge, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1887, played a prominent role in the city’s 1889 flood. The seven-arch structure held against the deluge but also trapped tons of debris and flood victims, some of whom perished in a resulting fire.
The Stone Bridge now is owned by Norfolk Southern and carries 50 trains daily over Iron Street, the Conemaugh River and Route 56.
Local leaders in 2008 announced plans for aesthetic upgrades. Facade improvements are almost complete courtesy of a $400,000 in-kind commitment from Norfolk Southern.
Some facade work remains.
Also, crews will install electric conduits and apply an epoxy coating.
Then there are the lights. Designed by Shadowstone, a New Jersey company, the display will include “interchangeable colors available to match the theme of city events and holidays,” officials said.
“We are extremely proud to be part of the team that is enhancing the awareness and meaning of this major American landmark,” Shadowstone’s Frank Marsico said in a statement released Monday.
A lighting-installation contract has been awarded to Johnstown-based Blalock Electric Service, which is expected to finish work sometime from August through October.
This portion of the project will bring some logistical challenges. Due to train traffic, Brosig said it’s not feasible to work from the top of the bridge.
Instead, crews will set up their equipment in the river. And that requires water levels much lower than they currently are.
“We need it to stop raining for a while,” Brosig said with a laugh.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the river’s concrete flood walls, has approved the work. Machinery will enter the river via a ramp near Point Stadium.
“We have to get all vehicles out of there every night,” Brosig said.
The money allowing this work to happen came from three main sources: There was a $495,000 PennDOT grant, Norfolk Southern’s in-kind contribution and $260,000 raised through community fundraising.
Community donations were important because project organizers had faced the possibility of losing the PennDOT money if the job was not under contract by the end of June.
There were 417 donors. Major donations came from JWF Industries, Laurel Holdings Inc. and the Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
Johnstown Area Heritage Association is administering the project.
Brosig said fundraising is not finished.
Organizers want to build a reserve fund to pay for future upkeep of the bridge lights.
More information is available at www.johnstownstonebridge.org.