PennDOT aware of Mon-Yough bridge concerns
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 4:36 a.m.
PennDOT District 11 executive Dan Cessna said his agency is evaluating concerns about weight limit postings for bridges in Elizabeth, White Oak and other Mon-Yough communities.
“We do respect and understand the impact on the community,” Cessna said on Thursday, when PennDOT began posting the weight limits across the three-county District 11.
Cessna defended the decision PennDOT secretary Barry J. Schoch made last week.
“There is a cost to the public for doing nothing,” Cessna said. “That is what (Schoch) has warned since the spring. We are very understanding that this is creating negative impact for people.”
Among the postings is a 32-ton restriction, except for 40 in certain combinations, on the Elizabeth Bridge carrying Route 51 over Route 837 and the Monongahela River from West Elizabeth into Elizabeth.
Cessna, the state transportation department's top administrator for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, said PennDOT issues “a lot of special hauling permits” for carrying more than 40 tons.
Cessna agreed with borough officials who said on Tuesday the impact will be felt on a local highway in Elizabeth, “a 450-foot section of municipally owned (Market) Street.”
Market Street is part of an expected detour to send truckers off Route 51 in West Elizabeth via Route 837 to the Clairton-Glassport Bridge.
In Glassport, truckers would turn right onto Glassport-Elizabeth Road, also known as Lincoln Boulevard and McKeesport Road and N. Second Avenue going into Elizabeth, then left onto Market Street.
Cessna said the only other detour available is a 75-mile rerouting via Turnpike 43, the Mon/Fayette Expressway.
Cessna said state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, was right to say the reason for the new posting standards was not an imminent risk of a bridge collapse.
“By limiting the heavy loads that cross the bridge you automatically extend the life, so the bridge will ultimately last longer,” Cessna said.
PennDOT has no pressing concern about the Clairton-Glassport Bridge.
“That bridge was reconstructed not that long ago,” Cessna said. A $4 million project was completed last year.
A similar project is planned for the Elizabeth Bridge, but Cessna said it won't happen without sustainable funds.
“We have last year started designing a rehabilitation project for that bridge and we would be able to have those plans ready about one year from now,” Cessna said.
Such funding would not include one-time solutions such as a sale of state liquor stores, the District 11 executive said.
“We certainly support the governor's and Senate plans,” Cessna said. Both are omnibus plans covering roads, bridges, mass transit and other concerns that would be covered by increased fees and a lifting of the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax.
A commission named by Gov. Tom Corbett issued a plan that was a basis for Senate Bill 1, which failed to win approval in the House before the General Assembly went on summer recess.
Saccone said he opposes lifting the cap because it would raise the price of gasoline by 28 cents a gallon.
Saccone proposed paying for bridge rehabilitation with an opening of 300,000 acres of state forest land to natural gas drilling. He said it would bring in more than $1 billion immediately and then royalties for a restricted fund.
Saccone said he hoped to introduce his bill with co-sponsors as early as Friday.
Other bridge postings include a pair in White Oak, a 25-ton limit on Ripple Road and a 33-ton limit on a bridge carrying Lincoln Way over Long Run. Combinations could allow 31 tons on the Ripple Road bridge and 40 on the Lincoln Way span.
“I met with White Oak officials (on Wednesday during state Rep. Marc Gergely's annual tour),” Cessna said. “They are very concerned about those restrictions.”
Locally, restrictions are planned on state-maintained bridges in Lincoln, Jefferson Hills and Baldwin, and an Allegheny County-maintained bridge on Ravine Street in Munhall.
Cessna said local bridges were included in the state's list because ultimately PennDOT is responsible to the federal government for maintenance of all Pennsylvania bridges.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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