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Bridge opening delayed till spring

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

For three winters, motorists have had to navigate around the shuttered bridge spanning the Monongahela River between Charleroi and Monessen.

That detour will be necessary one more winter.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation acknowledged Friday that the John K. Tener Bridge won't be ready for traffic until spring. The former Charleroi-Monessen Bridge will be renamed for Tener when the rehabilitated span reopens.

PennDOT had hoped to have the bridge ready by year's end, but some painting work would have extended into 2013 regardless.

PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said officials have made a decision not to push for the late December goal.

“We're not going to make the end of the year,” Petersen said. “It was always mentioned that was a concern unless we could accelerate the project.”

Earlier this year, the project was delayed a few weeks because of problems with steel erection. But the change is a result of several factors, Petersen said.

“It was not just one issue,” she said. “There were a lot of things.”

Built in 1906, the bridge was rehabilitated shortly after World War II and again in 1986.

The National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to take into account the effects that federally funded activities and programs have on significant historic properties. “Significant historic properties” are those included in, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places.

The Charleroi-Monessen Bridge is listed on the register because of its design as a Pennsylvania Petit truss bridge, a variant of truss bridges built in the U.S. from the 1870s well into the mid-20th century.

The Charleroi Area Historical Society has touted the bridge's historic significance because it was built by the Mercantile Bridge Co., of which Tener was president.

Tener eventually became governor of Pennsylvania.

State officials, including then-state Sen. J. Barry Stout, D-Bentleyville, claimed the bridge project was delayed about nine months while a letter of memorandum of agreement for the proposal to repair or replace the Charleroi-Monessen span was developed among historic officials and PennDOT.

Construction on the $26.1 million bridge project began in late 2010.

Construction in 2011 involved building footers for the bridge. The deck of the old bridge was imploded in July 2011 to make room for the new span.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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