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Pennsylvania DOT Airs Bridge Controversy

August 10, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) officials say they offered to build a higher access bridge to the Conewago Isle Campground, but the business owner turned it down, according to the York Daily Record.

That’s because the higher bridge would have required a longer ramp, which would have taken up more of the island, according to PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny.

John Lupse, who owns the campground, located between Gettysburg and Lancaster, Pa., said that option wasn’t discussed with him. He says he would have approved of a higher bridge — even if it meant a longer ramp — so that campers could escape if the island floods. He’s not happy with the bridge they built, and which PennDOT says he now owns. He says it will be flooded during heavy rain.

“They just told me, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ and that’s it,” Lupse said. “All they’re trying to do is wiggle out of this.”

PennDOT is replacing two, 19th-century metal bridges with one modern span. The project costs nearly $4.2 million.

The new structure will cross over the island, cutting off the old way in and out of the campground.

PennDOT officials met and spoke with Lupse many times, explaining the project and the options available to him, Penny said.

The agency offered to buy the entire island from Lupse, but he wasn’t interested in selling it.

“I’m not ready for a rocking chair,” the 67-year-old businessman said.

He Said, They Said

That’s when the bridge came into play.

PennDOT officials told Lupse that the agency would have to buy some ground from a neighbor to build a new access road and bridge to the campground, which would be deeded to him, Penny said.

The height of the bridge also was addressed, Penny said.

Officials explained that in order to make the bridge high enough not to flood, the ramp leading up to it would have to be significantly longer, he said. The campground owner didn’t want that option because it would take up too much of his island.

“We gave him exactly what he wanted,” Penny said.

Lupse, however, said the first time he was informed about his ownership of the private access was last week when he met with PennDOT officials to discuss his concerns about the low bridge.

PennDOT officials say Lupse agreed to project plans, which included that the road and bridge to the campground would be his, Penny said. On Friday, Penny provided a copy of the construction easement signed by Lupse, and a copy of the bridge plans he says PennDOT “shared and discussed numerous times with Mr. Lupse, and he should have received a copy of it.”

Lupse said that PennDOT paid him for a small amount of land it took for the project. He also received payment for allowing equipment on his property during construction. That’s what Lupse thinks he signed for.

“I did not sign for no bridge,” he said.

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