Mansfield Bridge work on budget, on schedule
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 4:36 a.m.
If the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge weren't being rehabilitated, PennDOT would have posted it with a weight limitation last month.
“This is just one of nearly 5,000 bridges that are structurally deficient,” state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, said Thursday during a tour of the span, which is getting a $31 million overhaul.
Allegheny County construction engineering manager Mike Dillon said it is the biggest of 20 projects under way on county-maintained spans.
The tour was aimed to send a message to other House members about passing the state Senate's transportation funding reform proposal.
“We've got to pass Senate Bill 1,” said Kortz, who is on the House Transportation Committee. “God forbid if a school bus goes off one of these bridges.”
State Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, and Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, agreed, but Brewster said he'd consider other House proposals.
That includes one by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, to open 300,000 acres of state forest land to gas drilling for a bridge fund.
“I wish they had been discussed a year ago,” Brewster said. “They certainly have merit.”
Saccone said leasing would raise $1.05 billion and be augmented by royalty fees of 16 percent.
Kortz said, “His bill is not strong enough.”
“(Some of) the acreage he referenced isn't even in the Marcellus shale,” Gergely said. “You've got to have a very strong answer to fund transportation and infrastructure.”
Brewster challenged claims that the senate bill's lifting of the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax would raise gasoline prices by 28 cents a gallon.
“That is a moving target,” Brewster said. “It is 5 cents a year for five years, but depending on how the bill is changed it may only be 2 cents a gallon.”
Lawmakers will return to Harrisburg on Sept. 23. Kortz said a key player in transportation talks may not be there.
Kortz said House Transportation Chairman Dick Hess, 74, R-Bedford County, is hospitalized because he suffered a stroke.
“Dick is a very honorable man,” Kortz said. “I enjoy working with him.”
The overhaul of the Mansfield Bridge is two months ahead of the target December 2014 completion.
“We're on budget,” said Dennis Romanek of Management Engineering Corp., a project manager and consultant for the county public works department. “They spent a little more money last winter to heat the bridge.”
Among those doing the work are contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. and subcontractor Avalotis Corp., which is repainting the span.
The heat speeded up completion of lanes that carry traffic toward McKeesport's Tenth Ward and Glassport. In June work shifted toward the lanes that take traffic to Dravosburg, as did the tenting over the span.
Romanek said Avalotis provided tenting and vacuums so paint removal meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Thursday's tour participants navigated a walkway under the bridge made of the same corrugated metal being used in the bridge deck.
“It spans the whole underneath,” Kortz said.
“I thought we were in Kennywood, on Noah's Ark,” Brewster aide Tim Joyce said.
“I don't know how people do this,” said Amber Karcher, a Fay graphic designer, as a co-worker used a jackhammer.
“He's jacking out the loose concrete,” Romanek said.
Romanek pointed to bridge supports where 12-inch metal bearings were installed.
“They poured on new cement, to hold on to the new joints,” Kortz said.
County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, wondered if the public was ever in danger because of eroded concrete holding the old joints.
New county public works director Steve Johnson said other changes include refurbished railings on the ramps and new railings on the bridge.
Macey and Gergely later joined borough officials and an aide to U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, to tour landslide damage on Coulterville Road and Center Street Extension in White Oak.
Gergely said an application may be made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for funds for the roads, both of which are in rural parts of White Oak.
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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