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Munhall mayor seeks to remedy flyover bridge hazards

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:11 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
The high-traffic flyover ramp into the Waterfront from Route 837 in Munhall is considered a dangerous entrance to the retail area by local officials, who are keeping track of accidents in that area.

Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar said he cannot wait any longer for Allegheny County and PennDOT officials to remedy a safety hazard on the east flyover bridge.

“I'm going to start really following up on it now because it's gone far enough,” Bodnar said.

He mentioned at last week's council meeting multiple accidents between commercial trucks and other automobiles on the flyover, also called a ramp, at the intersection of Route 837 and East Waterfront Drive by Marcegaglia USA.

“Unfortunately there's all kind of problems down there,” Bodnar said. “There's a lot of accidents there, most are nonreportable. There's small accidents and damage between automobiles and trucks. We've had several large accidents down there. Whenever (trucks) hit the guardrail down there, which they do on occasion, guess who gets stuck fixing the guardrail? Munhall borough at about $9,000 (to) $10,000 a clip, and I'm very upset over it.”

Over the past five years, approximately 53 minor and 10 major accidents have occurred on the flyover bridge, particularly on the bend.

“Because of the curvature in that roadway, there's not enough room for a larger truck to (get on and off the ramp) if there's any cars traveling in the opposite lane,” police Chief Pat Campbell said. “From the intersection down to the bottom where it flattens out, most of the (accidents) were very low speed. There's been injuries but none very serious. Sooner or later that's going to happen ... It's just too tight.”

A study performed in 2013 determined it was unsafe for large trucks to use the flyover bridge, and it was recommended that trucks more than 40 feet long be rerouted.

In December, Campbell reported that three trucks from the same company wrecked on the corner of the flyover bridge.

In January, council and PennDOT approved restricting commercial trucks on the flyover ramp to 40 feet or less.

At that time, the borough approved the purchase and posting of signs indicating no right and left turns for commercial vehicles from Route 837 to East Waterfront Drive for an indefinite period in an agreement with PennDOT.

The larger trucks have been rerouted to the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Amity Street, the only other access point to the Waterfront from the main thoroughfare.

Bodnar has lobbied for the past 11 years for the bridge's widening. He testified before a number of committees, including the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, and gained support from state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, and state Sen. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills.

“I asked and I have plans and every other darn thing to widen the flyover from 26 feet to 53 feet, which would make a lot of common sense,” Bodnar said. “We got to get that dogleg out of there and save all these accidents ... Several people have promised me that this was going to be worked on this year, and I haven't heard nothing and nobody's saying anything.”

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission is the region's forum that plans and prioritizes the use of state and federal transportation funds designated to a 10-county region around Pittsburgh.

The flyover ramp was constructed in the mid-1990s, prior to the Waterfront being developed, when Georgia-Pacific Corp. planned to develop 40 acres of old USX Homestead Works property in Munhall.

In June 1996, Georgia-Pacific decided to no longer pursue the project, and Marcegaglia USA began operations in Munhall in 1998. The Waterfront development officially opened in 1999.

Campbell said the flyover ramp originally was built to serve the proposed Georgia-Pacific plant, and was “never intended to handle the (current) amount of traffic.”

Campbell advised motorists to be aware of their surroundings and leave more room for other vehicles in order to help prevent accidents.

Bodnar said future plans for the flyover bridge include possibly connecting it to the Hot Metal Bridge, which links the eastern portion of the Waterfront to the Carrie Furnace site across the Monongahela River.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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