Work to start Monday on new Hulton Bridge
Monday will mark the beginning of the end for the 105-year-old Hulton Bridge linking Oakmont and Harmar.
That's because it also marks the start of work on the new $65 million Hulton Bridge that is expected to be completed in 2015.
At a public presentation of the final plans on Thursday in Oakmont, PennDOT officials, representatives of the design firm and contractor said notice to proceed with construction will be issued Monday.
They said construction will not snarl traffic, since the thousands of vehicles that cross the Allegheny River will be able to use the old bridge throughout most of the project.
The bridge is being built just upstream of the current bridge, which will be demolished once construction is completed.
In fact, Dan Cessna, PennDOT district engineer for Allegheny County, and D. Eric Veydt of Gannett Fleming, PennDOT's design firm, said that detours will not be needed until the project is almost completed.
At that point, they said, detours via the Highland Park Bridge and the Tarentum Bridge will be in effect for about a month as the new bridge is tied into Freeport Road in Harmar.
Cessna was asked if he had any concerns or fears about the project.
“I have no fears,” he replied. “We're very excited. We've been planning this for five years, and we're anxious to get started.”
Residents seek answers
Residents asked various questions, but the biggest concern was about noise. It came from people living in condominiums along the river next to the bridge in Oakmont.
“The noise that bridge puts out is enormous, and it seems the only thing you are putting up is a railing,” said one man who asked about a landscape buffer.
“I think you will be very pleased with the landscaping we leave behind,” Cessna said.
Veydt also noted that the bridge deck will be about 25 feet higher near the Oakmont side than the present deck. He said that should help alleviate some noise for those residents.
He said the testing done with models has shown the project will not worsen noise level.
“The project meets all the criteria for sound based on state and federal standards,” Veydt said. “If it didn't meet the criteria, we would have to do something about it.”
Veydt said the deck had to be raised because the support structure for the bridge will be the beams under it, as opposed to the old bridge, which had overhead steel trusses holding it up.
He said ensuring the clearance for boats navigating the Allegheny would be the same or better was “a controlling factor.” The deck's peak will be between the second and third river piers near the Oakmont side.
“It will provide a nice vista as you are coming into town,” Cessna said.
Tom Whelan, an Oakmont resident, said he still is concerned about traffic on the Oakmont side.
“You still funnel into three lanes at Hulton Road,” Whelan said.
But the construction officials said the bridge should improve traffic flow because there will be four lanes — two in each direction — moving traffic.
Veydt and Cessna said there should be fewer backups of traffic heading out of Oakmont because traffic turning right toward Route 28 and the turnpike in Harmar will have its own lane.
Traffic flow coming into Oakmont from Freeport Road should be improved because there will be two lanes leading traffic onto the bridge.
Jason Booher, project manager for the Brayman Construction Corp. of Saxonburg, the general contractor, said what will take place Monday is basically site preparation.
“You're not going to see a storm of construction workers coming in here Monday,” Booher said.
Booher said construction won't take place around the clock. But he did say there will be different times during construction when some activities would require working into the night.
Mayor Bob Fescemyer said he wasn't concerned about any negative impacts of the project, which most residents are happy to see.
“If we didn't do this now, we would be gridlocked,” he said.
State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, who lobbied the Rendell administration to provide money for the project, thanked the bridge team for their work and asked residents to be patient through the construction.
“This is not an easy project, and everybody knows we need a new bridge,” Dermody said. “I think they've designed a nice bridge.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.