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Pedestrian bridge project steps up to planning stage

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 8:17 a.m.

Members of the Ligonier Township Recreation Board conducted a pre-construction meeting last week at the site of the proposed pedestrian bridge that will cross the Mill Creek near Weller Field.

Trail committee member Rose Stepnick met with the township's project engineer Paul McQuade of Morris Knowles and Associates Inc,, Brian Mergenthaler of Wheeler Bridge of Wexford, who will be preparing the drawings for the 70-foot span steel Pratt truss bridge, and Winston Simmonds of the Pittsburgh-based Simmonds Construction Services LLC. Ligonier Township supervisors last month accepted a bid $128,500 from Simmonds to fabricate the bridge.

During the meeting, the group reconfirmed the railroad abutments already in place would be usable saving additional costs for the project.

The original bridge provided access across the Mill Creek when the Ligonier Valley Rail Road was in operation between 1877 and 1952. It provided both passenger and freight trains access to the village of Wilpen.

“Since it was used for the railroad, it should be able to handle the load,” said Mergenthaler.

After gathering specific measurements, he will now prepare the drawings for the bridge, a process that could take three to four weeks until a final design is approved.

The bridge will be fabricated off site and then re-assembled at the site in three sections - the bridge, a steel corner piece and a wooden access ramp.

It will be constructed of weathered steel eliminating the need for repainting in the future.

“At least 90 percent of the bridges we design are made of this weathered steel,” said Simmonds. “It cuts down on maintenance and upkeep of the bridge.”

After Mergenthaler's drawings are approved, the project will be turned over to Simmonds to begin the fabrication, a process that should take 8 to 10 weeks according to Simmonds.

“We look to see this project complete and installed sometime in January or February, weather permitting,” Simmonds said.

“This bridge is great for the community. It promotes use of an existing trail that used to be a railroad bed. It will connect the community,” said Simmonds.

Stepnick said she has been involved in the Ligonier Rails to Trails project since she moved into Ligonier in 2003.

“When we moved to town, I was looking for a way to get involved in the community and there was an opening on the recreation board,” said Stepnick.

At that time, Stepnick said the board proposed a trail to connect Ligonier to Wilpen, but it never really got going.

However, they did get an easement from Bethlen Communities to utilize a 12 mile portion of the road bed for a trail.

“That gave us the opportunity to keep working on the trail,” she said.

In February, the first piece of the Ligonier Valley Trail, from Peoples Road to Mill Creek, was completed. When the bridge is installed, Stepnick said it will provide a way for people to walk or bike ride between the athletic fields.

“Anyone from town can use the trail and stay away from the busy traffic in town and along Route 711 to get out to the soccer fields,” she said.

Stepnick said she would like to see the trail expand north to the Ligonier Township Supervisors Building located along state Route 711 North.

“There is already parking and restroom facilities there and a nature trail with benches and picnic tables,” said Stepnick.

“We are talking to the landowners between Peoples Road and the township building,” she said. “We are getting some verbal agreements right now but plan to keep working to able to continue the trail.”

McQuade of Laughlintown said he is looking forward to the completion of the pedestrian bridge project.

“Everyone is anxious to get the trail open so they can get access to be able to use the trail,” he said.

In July, Trout Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Loyalhanna Watershed Association and the Youth Conservation Corps completed a joint project to stabilize the stream bank area around the bridge on Mill Creek. Log and rock formations were installed to help prevent future stream bank erosion around the bridge.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or