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Rapid Bridge Replacement Project nears halfway mark in Allegheny County

| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 5:06 p.m.
One of the two Big Sewickley Road bridges in Bell Acres benefitting from the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project reopened to traffic on Friday, Aug. 4.
Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners
One of the two Big Sewickley Road bridges in Bell Acres benefitting from the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project reopened to traffic on Friday, Aug. 4.

Road construction season in Pennsylvania can seem never ending, but one project is trying to speed up construction work on small bridge projects.

The $1.1 billion Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, a public-private partnership between PennDOT and Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners, is intended to replace 558 structurally deficient bridges over three years.

Construction on the Big Sewickley Creek Road Bridge wrapped up last week, eliminating it from Allegheny County's list of structurally deficient bridges. Bridge replacements cost an average of $1.6 million under the project, which reduces the average cost by about $400,000, according to the Federal Highway Administration .

The Big Sewickley Creek Road Bridge was one of 52 “rapid replacement” bridges in Allegheny County. Each bridge is similar in that they are relatively small and require few utility line relocations.

“The benefits of this project are in its name,” said Plenary Walsh spokesman Jeff Rossi. “We're coming in and replacing these culverts and bridges very fast and minimizing the road lane restrictions and so people don't have to take detours.”

Of the 558 bridges statewide that are included in the project, 335 have undergone construction and 236 of those have been completed since 2015, Rossi said.

Allegheny, Lawrence and Beaver counties, which are part of PennDOT District 11, has 1,804 bridges. Officials were able to select 84 bridges within the district, including 52 in Allegheny County, to benefit from the rapid replacement program.

Of the 52 in Allegheny County, 25 bridges are complete, 13 will begin construction in the fall, five bridges are under construction and nine are set to go under construction in 2018.

One of two bridges on Big Sewickley Road in Bell Acres was the most recent project to be completed. Work on the second bridge will start in September.

A Bell Acres official could not be reached.

Nine of the 13 bridge reconstructions that are set to begin in the fall have been postponed from their original start dates, which were in the summer.

“We project when we are going to have start dates for a lot of these projects and a lot of people notice that the construction gets postponed,” Rossi said. “It's important for people to know that we are ready to go, but sometimes there are utilities in the way or we are unable to obtain the right of way in time, and that can sometimes slow the process.”

If any of the projects set to begin in the fall are postponed within the next month, they won't be able to go under construction until next year as the construction season comes to a close, Rossi said.

Emma Curtis is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822, ecurtis@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @EmmaCurtisPGH.

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