On this Day in History: Veterans Memorial Bridge opens to the public

Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, officially called the Veterans Memorial Bridge.


The Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, officially called the Veterans Memorial Bridge, spans the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, and carries Route 462. Built originally as the Lancaster-York Intercounty Bridge, construction began in 1929, and the bridge opened on September 30, 1930. On November 11, 1980, it was officially dedicated as Veterans Memorial Bridge, though it is still referenced locally as the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge.

According to a recent LNP article, the 1.26-mile bridge is considered the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. That should come as no surprise as the site was once home to the world’s longest-covered bridge in the 1800s.

In nominating the present Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge as an engineering landmark, the Pennsylvania section of the American Society of Civil Engineers noted that it is “a splendid example of the graceful multiple-span, reinforced-concrete arched form popular in early 20th Century highway bridges in the United States.” The bridge is designated State Route 462 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Veterans Memorial Bridge from the Lancaster County side.

Brief History

Designed by James B. Long and built by Glen Wiley and Glenway Maxon (Wiley-Maxon Construction Company), it cost $2,484,000 (equivalent to $43.51 million in 2022), plus an early completion bonus of $56,400 (equal to $988,011.16 in 2022). Constructed of reinforced concrete, the 5,183-foot-long bridge (6,657 feet including spans over land) has 27 river piers, 22 approach piers, a 38-foot-wide two-lane roadway, and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk. Upwards of 100,000 cubic yards of concrete and 8 million pounds of steel reinforcing rods were used, and coffer dams were built to aid construction. Each span consists of three separate concrete ribs connected at five points by horizontal concrete struts, with the longest span measuring 185 feet.

Veterans Memorial Bridge

Tolls of 25 cents per vehicle were charged when the bridge first opened (equivalent to $4.38 in 2022) and ended on January 31, 1943, when the bond issue was retired. The original bridge lights were replaced with newer lighting sometime after World War II.

The 94-year-old bridge is slated to undergo a massive $79 million restoration project in 2025. Improvements will include the addition of bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and a roundabout in Wrightsville to replace a five-point intersection at the end of the bridge.

Veterans Memorial Bridge at night.

Now, you can purchase a four-pack of 4″x4″ slate coaster featuring the iconic 1930 Veterans Memorial Bridge that spans the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, PA. Each coaster was created using a 10-watt laser to permanently engrave the image onto the slate.

Planning Your Visit

From the Lancaster County side, you can access the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge at 151 Commerce St, Columbia, PA 17512. Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.033069, -76.505992. From York County, you can access the bridge at approximately 203 Hellam St, Wrightsville, PA 17368. Here are the GPS coordinates: 40.025792, -76.529988.

Adventure Awaits!

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Read More

Earliest known photo of the Wrightsville and Columbia Bridge

This is the earliest known photograph of the massive covered bridge that once spanned the Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia. Charles Himes, an amateur photographer in the early 1860s, took it. Click the link to learn more about this famous bridge.

Union forces burn Wrightsville Bridge to prevent invasion of Lancaster County.

On June 28, 1863, Union forces burned the Wrightsville Bridge to stop the advancing Confederate Army. This action saved Lancaster County and set the stage for the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, which would begin on July 1. Click the link to read more.

One thought on “On this Day in History: Veterans Memorial Bridge opens to the public

  1. Great work, Adam. So much more to learn and share. Your friends might like to know that the bridge piers and nearby PA canal ruins have been recognized by the National Park Service Network to Freedom for their key roles in the movement of freedom seekers as part of the Underground Railroad. And plans for the expansion of the Columbia Riverpark include their retention and preservation and access by trails, and the installation of historical markers to explain their history. Like most public and private efforts like this, it will take several years of extensive planning, community engagement, and financial support. So stay tuned, be engaged and make a difference.

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