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PennDOT: $40M will be spent to build Charleroi-Monessen span by 2011 | TribLIVE.com
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PennDOT: $40M will be spent to build Charleroi-Monessen span by 2011

Chris Buckley
| Friday, April 17, 2009 12:00 a.m

A new Charleroi-Monessen Bridge will be completed by late 2011, state officials announced Thursday.

Going at “hyper pace,” the state hopes to begin construction by the fall instead of rehabilitating the existing century-old span.

State transportation officials along with state Sen. J. Barry Stout of Washington County announced plans for the bridge yesterday during a meeting at the Lock Four Fire Hall in North Charleroi.

The project, which is estimated to cost $40 million, is expected to be let for bids in three months.

The Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was closed Feb. 19 after a routine inspection revealed deterioration of a vertical panel that supports the middle of the bridge. That deterioration was found in the first 200-foot span located closest to the Monessen side of the structure.

PennDOT District 12 Executive Joseph Szczur said after the initial finding an extensive analysis of the bridge’s other two, 400-foot river spans was undertaken. Problems were found with those two spans, but not to the extent of the deterioration found in the first span.

Built in 1906, the bridge was rehabilitated shortly after World War II and again in 1986.

Szczur said the more PennDOT engineers delved into the analysis, the more they realized it would cost nearly as much to repair all of the bridge’s damaged span structure as it would cost to build a new one.

“We were looking at a good bridge that had outlived its useful life,” Szczur said.

“I anticipate we will learn some things from this, which we’ll use in the future with how quickly we’ll build this,” Szczur said.

The project will draw on funds not used for other projects. The state has not yet determined the type of design for the bridge.

If repaired, the bridge would have had a weight limit and could have lasted 20 years at best, Szczur said. The new bridge could last 100 years, he said.

The concrete approaches to the bridge will remain. The three bridge piers will be replaced along with the center concrete truss and all of the superstructure steel above.

Stout, a Bentleyville Democrat who serves as minority chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said replacing the bridge makes economic sense. He praised PennDOT for expediting the project.

“We know this is an inconvenience for the people of the Mon Valley on the Monessen side of the bridge and the Charleroi side of the bridge,” Stout said. “But it is important to maintain safety. This is a good, prudent investment.”

The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique and historic design. Stout said he plans to introduce legislation renaming the structure the Gov. John Kinley Tener Bridge in memory of the banking executive from Charleroi who took office in 1911.

Historical society officials along with the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission would prefer the bridge be repaired. Some of the design of the bridge could be utilized in the new span, Szczur said.

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