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Celebration planned for John K. Tener Bridge reopening

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

Communities on both sides of the John K. Tener Bridge have endured more than four years with the shuttered span.

Now they're ready to celebrate the reopening of the former Charleroi-Monessen Bridge.

North Charleroi and Monessen officials are jointly planning a celebration for June 29.

On that date, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to reopen the shuttered bridge spanning the Monongahela River between Charleroi and Monessen.

PennDOT District 12 safety press officer Jay Ofsanik confirmed that the bridge is on schedule for reopening June 29.

The span was closed Feb. 19, 2009, after a routine inspection revealed deterioration of a vertical panel that supports the middle of the bridge. That deterioration was found in the first panel closest to the Monessen side of the span.

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 their 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 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.

Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith said the ribbon cutting will take place in the middle of the bridge. The mayor said Stout is being asked to attend and lead the procession of vehicles to the ribbon-cutting.

Stout and state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, are expected to be the guest speakers.

A wedding is also being planned on the bridge that day. Organizers are seeking residents of the two communities over the age of 90 to attend as guests.

Invitations are being sent to the descendants of Tener to attend.

The committee is working on a commemorative book as well as souvenir cups and T-shirts.

A contest is being held to select the logo for all of the commemorative items.

The winner will receive $100 and the winning logo to be displayed on T-shirts, cups and the booklet.

Invitations are being sent out to elected officials.

Musical entertainment is being planned in both towns.

North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall confirmed that he and Councilman Joe Villella are working with city leaders to plan the event.

“This is a real big deal for us because we've been without that bridge for a long time,” said Hall, who added the bridge closure has hurt businesses on both sides of the river.

“The idea is to celebrate the two communities getting back together,” Smith said. “We hope to get back to business and that it makes it more convenient for everyone.”

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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