1 vote

Penn Street Bridge (1913)


Penn Street Bridge in Reading

View of south side of Penn Street Bridge-- river crossing portion

Photo taken by Frank Danberg in February 2009


BH Photo #134229


Street Views 


Dedicated May 24th, 1914 per Oakley research


Concrete arch bridge over Schuylkill River on Business US 422 in Reading
Berks County, Pennsylvania
Open to traffic
Future prospects
Study has been completed by PENNDOT but recommendations have not been released yet. Most likely it will be rehabilitated.
Built 1913
- Benjamin H. Davis of New York City, New York
- L.H. Focht & Sons of Reading, Pennsylvania
Open-spandrel concrete arch
Length of largest span: 109.9 ft.
Total length: 1,337.0 ft.
Deck width: 55.1 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+40.33544, -75.93709   (decimal degrees)
40°20'08" N, 75°56'14" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
18/420402/4465410 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory numbers
PA 06 3422 0050 1036 (Pennsylvania Bridge Management System number)
BH 30410 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • April 25, 2020: Updated by Luke: Added categories "Benjamin H. Davis", "Schuylkill River"
  • April 3, 2018: Updated by Dana and Kay Klein: Dedicated May 24th, 1914 per Oakley research
  • March 4, 2017: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • January 30, 2017: New photo from Dana and Kay Klein
  • July 31, 2016: Updated by Tony Dillon: Fixed river name
  • February 25, 2009: New photos from Frank Danberg

Related Bridges 



Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 25, 2020, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Luke,thanks for the updates I supplied from the article that was posted.As you can see from the street views the work that was done on this bridge did not alter the way this bridge is supposed to look from a historic perspective.I am impressed with the way it looks.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 24, 2020, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

From the last article I posted the rehabilitation project planners used 1911 bridge drawings by Benjamin Herman Davis as a reference in restoring character-defining features of the concrete-arched bridge,including balustrades,river outlooks,obelisks and lighting along with strengthening the bridge to support modern,heavier vehicles,making it safer for motorists and pedestrians and extending its lifespan.Davis,a Manhattan engineer who specialized in concrete construction,designed the span,also known as the Penn Street Viaduct.The structure,which replaced an earlier iron truss bridge,was completed in 1913 by Reading contractor Levi H. Focht and Son.To showcase the open-spandrel arches and other design details,new energy-efficient LED lighting was installed beneath the bridge.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 23, 2020, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Todays paper here in Reading mentioned in an article that the Penn Street Bridge rehabilitation project was recently named by Preservation Pennsylvania as one of 24 outstanding historic preservation projects statewide.PennDOT,owner of the Reading bridge,is the recipient of the nonprofit preservation organization's 2020 Ralph Modjeski Award for excellence in transportation preservation.The award is named in memory of Modjeski,a Polish-American civil engineer and noted early 20th century bridge builder.About 20,000 daily commuters cross the historic span over the Schuylkill River.According to Mindy Crawford,executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania the work that was done gave respect to the historic appearance of the bridge while allowing it to meet modern safety requirements.She also mentioned a lot of historic bridges are altered and many are lost,replaced by modern structures.She also hopes the award will help bring attention to preservation work being done in the transportation industry.This award will be presented on Sept. 16 at the Simon Silk Mill in Easton,Pa. as part of the annual statewide conference on heritage.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted December 12, 2019, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I read in yesterdays local paper that construction on this bridge has been completed and the bridge is now open to all traffic in both directions on the bridge.This project was completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule.This project stayed true to the architectural style of the initial bridge built in 1913.The original streetlights were upgraded and an original plaque with the names of city officials along with a state historical marker were rehabilitated and attached to the southwest side of the bridge near second street.The upgrades include new traffic signs and drainage systems,walking and biking paths,and lights in obelisks along the bridge that change colors.Paperwork is also being submitted for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted October 21, 2019, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Don,being that I live about 6 blocks from this bridge at the most I see what is going on constructionwise with this bridge.You are right about the completion date and I do have to say the contractors nailed it so far with all that they did.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted October 21, 2019, by Don Morrison

Yup, George.

It's supposed to be finished in December. You'll have to get some pictures of that lighting for us.



"To preserve the original features of the bridge and to enhance the gateway to Reading, the obelisks were added on the eastern side of the bridge with aesthetic LED up-lighting to allow for colors to be changed for various holidays or events. Aesthetic lighting was added beneath the bridge to illuminate the open-spandrel arches creating a dramatic visual effect at night without impairing the historic character of the bridge."

Penn Street Bridge
Posted October 20, 2019, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Saw a picture in Fridays local paper of this bridge with lights underneath the bridge.Looks great at night.Don't know if it's permanent but will find out.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted June 11, 2019, by George Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I read an article in the local paper that a coffer dam which was built under the bridge while reconstruction of the bridge is going on is contributing to bank erosion on the Reading side of the river.Record rainfall is helping also with the erosion being that the water is being pushed toward the bank of the river from the coffer dam which is across 2/3 of the river under the bridge.Luckily the gas and water lines were moved.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted September 2, 2018, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

As for the previous comment there may be inaccuracies which I don't know about.I'm just posting what is printed in the local paper.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted September 2, 2018, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Me and my fiancée travelled over this bridge on both the outbound and inbound lanes yesterday.The outbound lane is finished and now the work begins on the inbound lane.The ornate railing along with the obelisk are on the outbound side of the bridge.Of course the railing was created to match the original railing along with the lookouts and lighting which is almost exactly like the original lighting.The median at the present time is removed and is now a cattleshute if anybody knows what that is.I read in this past Wednesdays Reading Eagle a history of this bridge from the very beginning.In 1795 when George Washington was president and the Schuylkill River was named Hidden Creek according to the Pennsylvania Dutch a ferryboat was the only way to get goods and people across to the foot of Penn Street.This was the only convenient place to cross the river,upstream or downstream for over 70 years previously.Crossing the river was dangerous at this time due to no dams on the river.3 women and a young girl drowned in a ferry capsizing in 1800.In 1795 $32,000 which was allocated to build a bridge was deemed insufficient.A lottery was ordered to raise $60,000 which failed.The second attempt at building a bridge was in 1801 when a wooden bridge was to be built at a cost of $16,000 which failed with the builder only laying the piers.In 1805 a third unsuccessful attempt was made.In 1812 authorization was made to build a stone or wooden bridge and charge a toll to pay for it.On December 20,1815 a wooden bridge opened for travel.Tolls were footman 1 cent;every 20 sheep,20 cents;every 20 swine,10 cents;every 20 cattle,20 cents;horse or mule,4 cents;sulky with 2 wheels and 1 horse,12 1/2 cents;horse and rider,6 cents;carriage with 2 horses,25 cents;carriage with 4 horses,37 1/2 cents;stagecoach with 2 horses,25 cents;stagecoach with 4 horses,30 cents;sleigh and horse,6 cents;draft sleigh and horse,5 cents and wagon or cart and horse,6 cents.This bridge has to be the covered bridge I saw pictures of.in 1884 the Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad Co. built a 3-span iron bridge with a 924-foot-long-viaduct which replaced the previous bridge.This bridge cost the railroad $100,000 to build and the county commissioners put up $30,000.The current bridge was dedicated on May 22,1914.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 2, 2018, by George oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I was just over this bridge Saturday and the lane patterns are still the same as what I last reported.The arches on the outbound side are getting worked on.By the way,this bridge was dedicated on May 24,1914 according to the Reading Eagle article I read.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted May 12, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Just rode over the bridge today both outbound and inbound.The outbound traffic was two lane outbound and one lane inbound.Traffic was backed up heading into Reading whereas heading into West Reading from Reading there were no backups.Also the median has been removed and barriers are erected to keep lane traffic where it should be during the repair.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted May 11, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley48 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Here are some other repairs i forgot to include.New electrical lines will power 15 teardrop luminaires with decorative welded arms and steel banner arms.This will help illuminate the bridge at night.A new 5 foot wide shoulder will be added for bike traffic and emergency use.I think i mentioned this but the reticulated balustrades will be identical to the previous design.10 0bservation outlets(5 on each side)from the original bridge will be added.Each outlet will measure 7 feet 6inches wide and 4 feet deep.These will be open to pedestrians when finished so they can view the landscape while crossing the bridge.The underside of closed spandrel sections will be waterproofed with a smooth protective concrete coating to prevent damage.Also a new telecommunication housing will be installed.If i get any more information i will pass it on.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted May 9, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Thanks Dana and Kay.I love it when somebody mentions me,even when i find it funny.Anyway,this project is one huge repair of this bridge.Traffic seems to be adjusting to the new patterns while construction is going on.To continue from my previous post about what they are doing to this bridge while under repair,here is what they are doing.As i mentioned before the superstructure is being repaired along with replacement of all horizontal floor beams under the roadway and repair of deteriorating concrete on the bridge's ribs.Also total replacement of the railings and parapets.The observation outlets,which were closed in the 1950's will be restored.The piers will be will be repaired,reinforced and protected from water damage.The uneven pavement,curbs and frequent potholes will be no problem no more after repairs.Spandrels,lighting and other historical features that have deteriorated will be replaced.The deck and two supports of the Route 422 west on ramp will be replaced.This ramp is a separate bridge.Shotcrete which led to cracks,rust and exterior deterioration will be removed.Poor drainage, which caused pipes to leak,creating cracks,rust,uneven road surfaces and concrete deterioration will be fixed with new drains being installed.Water damage has also compromised the electrical lines on the underside of the bridge.The structure supporting the Reading side of the roadway also called a chamber had a historically inaccurate retaining wall demolished.No word yet on replacement details.The north-facing side is damaged by the weather.Construction is being performed to address severe issues.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted May 8, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Here is some more information on this bridge.A new electronic message board will be installed for traffic on the inbound side into Reading.New traffic signals and signs will be installed at Second and Penn street intersection.New inlet drainage system will be installed.Metal barriers will be installed to protect pedestrians.Concrete barriers will also be installed to protect and direct pedestrians to crosswalks.Sidewalks,curbs and roadway will be replaced.Obelisks will be placed on both sides of the Reading side of the bridge.These obelisks will be historically as accurate as possible.More to come tomorrow.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted May 8, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

As per an article printed in the Reading Eagle on 5-7-17 starting today the Penn Street Bridge will have around the clock lane restrictions which means one lane of traffic entering the city until the end of 2019.During the final few months traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction.Today also marks the closure of the access ramp that takes westbound traffic from the West shore bypass into Reading.There are posted detours for traffic around the construction.The 104 year old bridge with a daily traffic count of 34,000 will be getting the structural fixes and concrete repairs.From what i said and have seen myself in earlier posts there are chunks of concrete missing and cracks are noticeable across the span.The $42.6 million project includes concrete repair,superstructure replacement,ornamental lighting and ramp work.Traffic signal work,new signs and new pavement markings are also part of the project.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 25, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Took a walk around this bridge on both sides of the river on 4-22-17 to check out progress so far on the repair.Both the inbound and outbound lanes are still open and most of the work being done as of now is cosmetic work on the outbound side of the bridge on both sides of the river.I did notice 8 iron beams bolted underneath concrete beams on the inbound W.Reading side of the river.Don't know if they're for support.Only a guess.Also they did build stone drives underneath the 3 approach arches on the inbound side so trucks can get underneath them.The sidewalk is also being put in on the outbound side of the bridge.Let you know more when i can get down to the bridge.Usually when i'm bored.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted April 10, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I did take a walk around this bridge on 4-8-17 and saw that cosmetic work is being done on the sides of the bridge on both sides of the river.Looks like the parapets on the bridge might be getting saved from what i saw.Now that the Buttonwood Street Bridge is open the work will start on this bridge next month.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted March 27, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I did take a walk over and around this bridge on 3-25-17.Most of the work I saw was being done on the sides of the bridge.The parapets as you call them are still on the bridge.Don't know when or what they will do with them.The arches are not being worked on as of yet.The railing on the outbound side has been removed.Hopefully it is replaced with a matching railing of the one that was there originally.Also the sidewalk is being worked on from what I saw.It is closed off to pedestrians at this time.As for the inbound side I can tell you the railing will be removed and the sidewalk replaced because I was able to see the street that runs underneath due to the holes through the sidewalk and railing.I also was able to look underneath the outbound side because they cut a hole so they could check the approach beams on that side.When I get more information I will probably take a stroll down and check it out.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted March 25, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

As per an article printed in todays Reading Eagle 3-25-17 the $42 million rebuild of this bridge has already started but no deck work as of yet.This project will be fully undertaken once the Buttonwood Street Bridge is reopened which because of a snowstorm that we had pushed the opening back to 4-14-17.I am planning on taking a look at the work so far performed on this bridge maybe later today or tomorrow being Sunday.Curious as to what they've done so far on the West Reading side.I have posted some work that was done on the Reading side.The picture i did see showed a platform being built under the far arch on the West Reading side.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted March 4, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Just walked past this bridge on the Reading side on my way back from looking at the Buttonwood street bridge being that today is Saturday the 4th of May 2017.Looking underneath at the approach spans on the Reading side there is alot of deterioration of the concrete which is being repaired as we speak.Also the walkway on the side of this bridge heading towards West Reading is currently closed.As i get more information i will post it here.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted February 6, 2017, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Read about the history of this bridge.The 1st covered bridge at this location was destroyed by flooding in 1850.The 2nd covered bridge which i saw pictures of at this location was replaced in 1884 by an iron truss span prior to this span.This 2nd covered bridge was wide enough for 2 lanes of traffic and a walkway.From the pictures it looks like the traffic was mainly horse and buggy.It sat on 2 piers.In all of the pictures i have seen of covered bridges i have never seen a 2 lane covered bridge with a walkway.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted September 16, 2016, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Read in the Reading Eagle this morning that the estimated cost for repairing this bridge is now $42.6 million which is $6.3 million more than originally estimated.The budget for this project has already been increased by about 50% over the original estimate.If this keeps up according to what i'm reading the final cost will be way higher.As mentioned previously work on this bridge will not begin until the Buttonwood Street Bridge reopens.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted July 31, 2016, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

As per an article printed in the Reading Eagle on 7-30-16 the Reading Area Transportation Committee has learned the long overdue overhaul of this bridge will now cost $36.3 million dollars which is more than 50% more than originally estimated.The original estimate was $24 million which was then revised to $30.5 million due mainly to findings by engineers that the concrete bridge is in worse condition than they first thought.And more work aimed at maintaining the bridge's historic look has been added since the original plan.The latest jump,$5.8 million,was based on updated construction costs,officials said.Repairs on the 103-year-old bridge are scheduled to start after the reopening of the Buttonwood bridge,which has been closed since July 2015 for similar repairs.That project is expected to take 2 years.Unlike the Buttonwood Street Bridge,the Penn Street Bridge will remain open during construction but with lane restrictions.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted March 19, 2015, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

as of an article printed in the reading eagle on 3-19-15 work on this bridge will not start until repairs are completed on the buttonwood street bridge.this bridge will not be closed during the work being performed but will have lane restrictions.also an entrance ramp from route 422 west will be closed.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted December 1, 2014, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

work on this bridge will not begin until after the buttonwood street bridge is repaired.according to the reading eagle work will not close the span.it will limit lanes and shut down an exit ramp from route 422.total repairs will cost $23 million dollars.hopefully it is worth it.actually they should replace the whole bridge instead of repairing it but i know the state cannot afford that.only time will tell.

Penn Street Bridge
Posted August 23, 2011, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

Open again after inspection....

20:00 EDT 23 Aug 2011

Penn Street Bridge
Posted August 23, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This bridge has been closed following an earthquake: