Work to begin April 16 on Routes 366/56 cloverleaf in New Kensington
It's a good thing Routes 366 and 56 will remain open for most of PennDOT's project to replace an overpass bridge near Memorial Park in New Kensington.
The official detour is a doozy.
Carmen Paliotta Contracting Co. on April 16 will begin shoulder work to accommodate the $2.8 million project to build a wider, higher, better supported bridge at the cloverleaf.
Dan Bartko, PennDOT's project manager, said Paliotta contractually has until May 2015 to complete the work, but may be able to finish before the end of this year.
Bartko said the overpass will be open throughout construction.
That's because the bridge, including its shoulders, is wide enough to handle both directions of traffic on one half of the span while the other side is replaced.
The Lower Burrell-bound side of the bridge — farther from Memorial Park — will be replaced first. Then, traffic will be shifted to the new portion while the Tarentum-bound side is finished.
PennDOT spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said vehicle width on the bridge will be limited to 10 feet, 6 inches during much of the construction.
Bartko said Route 56/366 beneath the bridge will remain open for the most part, but there will be a maximum of 16 overnight closures during demolition work and as crews set new beams.
The closures can occur from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
Bartko said no closures would occur Fridays through Sundays. A schedule for the closures is not yet available.
Even Bartko described the PennDOT detour as “ugly” — a 25-mile loop involving Routes 780, 380, 66, 356 and 56.
Petersen said the lengthy detour was necessary because PennDOT must use comparable state routes that can handle the same weight limits and offer turns wide enough for tractor-trailers.
Bartko acknowledged that local drivers may find alternative routes.
Leechburg and Craigdell roads in New Kensington and Lower Burrell are likely options.
“The locals know how to get around,” he said. “I can't stop that.”
City officials not concerned
New Kensington City Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti said he doesn't have any major concerns about additional traffic on city roads, especially given the closures will be limited to a few nights.
“There's a lot of traffic (that uses the interchange), but I think it will flow well,” he said.
“It's a very much-needed improvement,” Scarpiniti said, noting deterioration on the underside of the bridge has left debris on the road.
“Once we get that done, all our major entrances in the city will be in good shape,” he added, pointing to recent PennDOT projects in Parnassus and on Tarentum Bridge Road.
Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr. said he isn't worried about emergency vehicle travel since closures will be rare and the city's five fire stations have a variety of alternate routes available.
“We're able to serve from both sides of the bypass,” he said.
Saliba said he was pleased that PennDOT guaranteed there would be no closures during the New Kensington Community Days on the weekend of June 20-22. The three-day festival draws thousands to Memorial Park and is a major fundraiser for the fire department.
“Over half, maybe 65 percent, of our visitors are coming from that part of town — New Kensington, Lower Burrell, Allegheny Township,” Saliba said. “It's very important that the road remain open.”
Although the work may add to the congestion that usually occurs on Routes 366/56 in front of the park during the festival, Saliba said the reduced 40 mph speed limit in the construction zone and excess warning signs about construction could improve safety.
New bridge wider, higher
The new bridge will be a single, 55-foot-wide span, as opposed to the current three-span, 44-foot-wide overpass.
The abutments will be positioned for better support, and the clearance beneath the bridge will be raised by about 2 feet to comply with new standards.
PennDOT officials noted during a presentation on the project last fall that the underneath beams have been struck several times by passing traffic.
Brian C. Rittmeyer and Liz Hayes are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Rittmeyer can be reached at 724-226-4701. Hayes can be reached at 724-226-4680.
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