Historic Railroad Map of Lancaster

A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from February 1891 shows where the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading & Columbia Rairoad lines ran through Lancaster city.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wants to make sure there aren’t any more open cavities underneath the streets it’s responsible for in Lancaster city.

As it prepares to shut down a portion of North Lime Street next week to fill in a cavity under an old railroad bridge, it is researching to see if there are similar issues in other parts of the city that need to be addressed.

“Staff has identified the location of railroad tracks running through the city by using historic maps,” PennDOT spokesman Dave Thompson said Tuesday. “We will conduct research based on that information.”

If any other roads are identified to have similar issues, PennDOT’s next step would be decided on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The department’s research is being done in conjunction with the city as the city gathers information on roads it is responsible for.

The city has already looked at other locations based on information from historical maps and photos, said Matt Metzler, deputy director of public works.

Many of the tracks were street-level, he said, and the James and Mulberry street bridges that the city was already aware of are structurally sound.

However, the potential remnants of a bridge at Shippen Street is one the city has identified as an area of interest, Metzler said Tuesday.

“We may further look at this area in the near future to better understand how it was abandoned,” he said.

An engineer would be consulted to evaluate the area if anything was discovered, Metzler said. “There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to these projects.”

According to a map drawn at the height of the railroad tracks in Lancaster city in 1891 and his own knowledge, Eric Conner said that Duke and Cherry streets are the only ones he is aware of that had a bridge structure similar to the one found at North Lime Street.

PennDOT will shut North Lime Street down between East Walnut and East Chestnut streets from Tuesday through Oct. 21 to fill in a void as wide as the road, and measuring 5 to 6 feet deep and 30 feet long.

Conner, assistant stationmaster at Strasburg Rail Road, said he’s not sure about a bridge at Shippen Street, but it’s possible that there was one.

“There’s a lot of hidden history under our streets,” he said.