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Elizabeth Bridge to receive $17.1M rehabilitation

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 4:26 a.m.
Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
This tractor-trailer, which crossed the Elizabeth Bridge in the south bound lane of Route 51 in September 2013, no longer is allowed on the span because of the weight limits posted in December. Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission has given its blessing to a $17 million rehabilitation of the bridge.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
PennDOT secretary Barry J. Schoch told the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon in May that the Elizabeth Bridge 'is a pretty complex bridge to design.' Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission is proposing design work through next year, with actual construction work proposed for 2017 and 2018.

The $17.1 million rehabilitation of the Elizabeth Bridge is the largest Mon-Yough project in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's 2015-18 Transportation Improvement Plan.

“This is a good project and we're glad to see it included in the TIP,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said once the commission approved the $4.7 billion plan on Monday. “We look forward to seeing the start of the work.”

According to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission the bulk of the work on the bridge is planned for 2017 and 2018.

The plan proposes $700,000 for design work next year and $200,000 apiece for utility and right-of-way activity in 2016.

“I think it is encouraging that they are moving to make the bridge safer,” Elizabeth Mayor V. Ann Malady said. “It is the second most heavily traveled bridge in Allegheny County. It is a good thing to have that done.”

The span between West Elizabeth and Elizabeth over the Monongahela River is known officially as the Regis R. Malady Bridge, named for the late state lawmaker and Mayor Malady's father.

“We were thrilled to read of that recommendation,” Elizabeth council president Monica Douglas-Glowinski said. “We are fully supportive of that.”

Douglas-Glowinski said it made sense to prioritize the Elizabeth Bridge since PennDOT had given it “a failing grade” and listed it among 1,000 bridges it needed to post last year.

It was posted by PennDOT in December with a 32-ton limit for single vehicles and 40 for combinations.

By order of the state Public Utility Commission, Elizabeth police, who patrol Elizabeth and West Elizabeth, are responsible for enforcing the weight limits on the span.

“We have a great police department and people are very helpful,” Malady said. “We're holding hands and moving together.”

PennDOT District 11 officials were not available for comment. Douglas-Glowinski has heard little from PennDOT recently, saying it's been “few and far between as far as the active communications with PennDOT.”

The Elizabeth Bridge was not on the list of projects to be covered this year under Act 89, the new state transportation funding bill.

“The Elizabeth Bridge is still under design at this point,” PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan said in April when those projects were touted.

“The Elizabeth Bridge is a pretty complex bridge to design,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch told the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce in May.

The posting forced a detour via West Elizabeth, Jefferson Hills, Clairton, Glassport, Lincoln, Elizabeth Township and Elizabeth.

“There have been some hiccups along the way,” Douglas-Glowinski said. “The police have needed traffic details to move trucks through town.”

Truckers still occasionally take wrong turns.

“We still have issues,” Malady said. “Truckers have (global positioning systems) that are not as accurate as one would hope they would be.”

Frequent traffic backups have occurred for other reasons, ranging from a vehicle fire on the bridge on June 20 to the rescue of a 14-year-old boy who climbed up the side of the bridge on the West Elizabeth shore on July 18.

“Hopefully we don't see anything like that again,” Douglas-Glowinski said. “It had traffic tied up all over the area.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.