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Traffic will flow during NK bridge replacement

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 12:25 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Noreen Karolski, project design manager for Buchart Horn Inc., discusses plans for the construction of a new bridge to carry Route 366 over Route 56 in New Kensington. Karolski made her presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in New Kensington City Hall.

Another major Alle-Kiski Valley bridge, this one in New Kensington, will be replaced starting in April.

Construction on the Route 366-Route 56 cloverleaf bridge near Memorial Park should not be the traffic disaster motorists might envision, however.

That's what PennDOT officials indicated when they held a public presentation of the plans at New Kensington City Hall on Tuesday.

For the majority of the project, which will end next November, PennDOT officials said two-way traffic will be maintained on the Route 56 bypass under the bridge and at all times on the bridge, which carries Route 366 over the bypass. The structure is a key link for traffic between Westmoreland and Allegheny counties along Route 366 and from the New Kensington area to the Kiski Valley along Route 56.

“We can shift all the traffic to one side and then do the other side. Those shoulders are pretty wide so we'll be able to keep two 10-foot-6-inch wide lanes and a divider,” said Thomas J. Dougan, a design consultant for the project from Buchart Horn Inc.

“We are going to maintain traffic on Route 56 throughout the project except for 16 evenings from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” said Bill Beaumariage, PennDOT construction engineer for District 12 in Uniontown.

He said those times primarily will be when the contractor does work such as removing the present bridge piers and installing temporary supports. Beaumariage said severe financial penalties are built into the contract if that limitation is exceeded.

Also, electronic message boards will be set in place to remind motorists of when Route 56 will be closed two weeks in advance, he said.

The speed limit through the construction zone will be 40 mph, according to Beaumariage. The posted detour will move traffic from Route 56 to Route 780, then to Route 380. From there, it will go to Route 66 and then Route 356.

About the new bridge

Noreen Karolski, also of Buchart Horn Inc., and Dougan said the bridge structure will go from the current three spans to a single span. The bridge pillars will be removed and the abutments will be moved farther out under the bridge for better support.

They said the new bridge will be wider and higher than the existing one. The current bridge is 44 feet wide with one 14-foot-wide lane and one 16-foot-wide lane with shoulders that are just under six feet wide. The new bridge will be 55 feet wide with two 15-foot-wide lanes a 2 12-foot-wide median and one shoulder that is just under 6 feet while the one on the side closest to Valley High School will be just under 14 feet wide, Dougan said.

“That's a by-product of building it that way. You have to go wider,” Beaumariage said.

The bridge will be two feet higher to comply with newer vertical standards, he said. The current bridge is 14 12 high.

“Several of the beams underneath have actually been hit,” Beaumariage said.

He said the bridge is being built completely with state money at an estimated cost of between $2 million and $5 million.

About a half-dozen city officials and a representative from State Rep. Eli Evankovich's office were at the meeting, but no residents showed up.

Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba said, with the varied locations of the city's fire stations, emergency response should not be affected, even on the nights Route 56 is shut down.

“We'll be able to handle everything,” he said. “It might take a few extra seconds, but it won't be a massive delay.”

Mayor Tom Guzzo said the project is “a good thing.”

“They are giving everybody enough advance notice,” Guzzo said. “With shutting it down for just 16 nights, that's not going to inconvenience local traffic.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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