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Unity theme at dedication of new bridge between Monessen, North Charleroi

Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - John E. Tener of Boston, Mass., great-great-nephew of John K. Tener, holds one end of the ribbon, as retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout cuts the ribbon along with state Rep. R. Ted Harhai during opening ceremonies of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>John E. Tener of Boston, Mass., great-great-nephew of John K. Tener, holds one end of the ribbon, as retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout cuts the ribbon along with state Rep. R. Ted Harhai during opening ceremonies of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Ed Verkleeren | For The Valley Independent - Thirty white doves were released as part of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the opening of the new Tener Bridge connecting North Charleroi and Monessen.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ed Verkleeren | For The Valley Independent</em></div>Thirty white doves were released as part of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the opening of the new Tener Bridge connecting North Charleroi and Monessen.
- Some of John K. Tener's family walk the new John K. Tener bridge,Nancy and Tom Walworth from Indiana, Carol Short Protacio, of Virginia, Mary Tener Hall of Texas,and Dennis Holmes of California. They came from all over for the opening of the bridge in honor of John K. Tener. On Saturday, June 29,2013.
Some of John K. Tener's family walk the new John K. Tener bridge,Nancy and Tom Walworth from Indiana, Carol Short Protacio, of Virginia, Mary Tener Hall of Texas,and Dennis Holmes of California.  They came from all over for the opening of the bridge in honor of John K. Tener.  On Saturday, June 29,2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Allyssa Castner, 7, of North Charleroi and Brandon Schwalb,15, release pigions during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge. At far right is retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Allyssa Castner, 7, of North Charleroi and Brandon Schwalb,15, release pigions during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge.  At far right is retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Fred Schwalb, assistant fire chief for Lock 4 and a North Charleroi councilman, unveils the plaque that was on the old Charleroi-Monessen Bridge beside the North Charleroi Veterans Memorial.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Fred Schwalb, assistant fire chief for Lock 4 and a North Charleroi councilman, unveils the plaque that was on the old Charleroi-Monessen Bridge beside the North Charleroi Veterans Memorial.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Baylei Kruppa, 5, and Gabriela Summers, 11, dance to the music of the Dallas Marks Band at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi as part of the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge. They were with their parents, Rachel and Chris Kruppa of North Charleroi.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Baylei Kruppa, 5, and Gabriela Summers, 11, dance to the music of the Dallas Marks Band at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi as part of the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge. They were with their parents, Rachel and Chris Kruppa of North Charleroi.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Debbie Keefer of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber takes photos of the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Debbie Keefer of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber takes photos of the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Cars cross the new John K. Tener Bridge from Monessen to North Charleroi on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Cars cross the new John K. Tener Bridge from Monessen to North Charleroi on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Robert and Irene Novotne of Monessen give their daughter Robecca Novotne-Castner a kiss as her husband Michael Castner stands in the background at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi. The newlyweds were married on the new John K. Tener Bridge during opening ceremonies on June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Robert and Irene Novotne of Monessen give their daughter Robecca Novotne-Castner a kiss as her husband Michael Castner stands in the background at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi. The newlyweds were married on the new John K. Tener Bridge during opening ceremonies on June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Sonya, Gianna and their mother, Valerie Petersen of Fredricktown, look at the reflective material that is placed on road lines to make them easier for drivers to see. Valerie Petersen is PennDOT's community relations coordinator. The Petersens attended the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Sonya, Gianna and their mother, Valerie Petersen of Fredricktown, look at the reflective material that is placed on road lines to make them easier for drivers to see. Valerie Petersen is PennDOT's community relations coordinator.  The Petersens attended the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall and Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith talk during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge that connects North Charleroi and Monessen.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall and Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith talk during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge that connects North Charleroi and Monessen.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Irene Halavacik and Thelma Palmer, both of North Charleroi, pose for a picture during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Irene Halavacik and Thelma Palmer, both of North Charleroi, pose for a picture during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Barbara Mayfield of Monongahela enjoys the music of Dallas Marks Band at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi after the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Barbara Mayfield of Monongahela enjoys the music of Dallas Marks Band at the Professional Plaza in North Charleroi after the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Fred Schwalb, assistant fire chief for Lock 4 and North Charleroi councilman, unveils the historical marker of the Community of Lock 4 beside the community's Veterans Memorial just before the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Fred Schwalb, assistant fire chief for Lock 4 and North Charleroi councilman, unveils the historical marker of  the  Community of Lock 4  beside the community's Veterans Memorial just before the opening of the new  John K. Tener Bridge.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Michael Castner, Lock 4 Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief, gives his wife Robecca Novotne-Castner a kiss after they got married by North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Michael Castner, Lock 4 Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief, gives his wife Robecca Novotne-Castner a kiss after they got married by North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall during the opening ceremonies of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Monessen and Donora ladder trucks raise the flags on the North Charleroi side of the new John K. Tener Bridge prior to the opening ceremonies on Saturday, June, 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Monessen and Donora ladder trucks raise the flags on the North Charleroi side of the new John K. Tener Bridge prior to the opening ceremonies on Saturday, June, 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Monessen Municipal Fire Chief Delmar Hepple, left, and Lock 4 Assistant Fire Chief and North Charleroi councilman Fred Schwalb pose for a picture before the opening of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Monessen Municipal Fire Chief Delmar Hepple, left, and Lock 4 Assistant Fire Chief and North Charleroi councilman Fred Schwalb  pose for a picture before the opening of the John K. Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Frank Lesko and Sandrie Lesko hug their mother Irene Lesko, who used to live under the old Charleroi-Monessen bridge when she was young. They now live in Jacobs Creek and came back to see the new John K. Tener Bridge.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Frank Lesko and Sandrie Lesko hug their mother Irene Lesko, who used to live under the old Charleroi-Monessen bridge  when she was young. They now live in Jacobs Creek and came back to see the new John K. Tener Bridge.

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Monday, July 1, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
 

When the rehabilitated Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was reopened in 1986, North Charleroi officials threatened to boycott the ceremony unless PennDOT renamed the span.

The state didn't and North Charleroi leaders reluctantly participated.

That dissension was history — as was the deck of the old bridge and even the name — when ceremonies were held Saturday marking the reopening of the bridge spanning the Monongahela River between North Charleroi and Monessen.

Fencing on the bridge was painted black and white on the Monessen side and red and black for the Charleroi Area Cougars on the other side.

The ceremonial ribbon cut to mark the opening of the new John K. Tener Memorial Bridge was red, black and white.

After the ceremony, Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith hurriedly cut the ribbon into souvenir pieces and handed them out to officials of both communities.

Unity was the theme on a day that included a wedding.

The couple — fittingly the groom a North Charleroi resident and his bride a Monessen native — took the plunge in the center of the bridge in the midst of the ceremonies.

Officiating the wedding of Robecca Novtone and Michael Castner, North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall said: “As this bridge unites two communities, this (wedding) ceremony joins two lives together.”

Before the ceremony, at the veteran's memorial near the North Charleroi side of the span, unveiling ceremonies were held for a historic marker “Community of Lock Four” and for the original plaque from the former bridge, embedded in stone from a pillar of the former span.

Debbie Brimner of Michael Baker Jr. Inc. in Moon Township laid out and designed the historical signage that was erected at benches along the pedestrian walkway of the bridge. They included information about Tener, the Bridge and Monongahela River navigation. At either end of the bridge were markers denoting the history of Pittsburgh Steel and Lock Four.

About a dozen descendents of Tener attended the ceremony.

“It's great to see the people embrace the history,” said Carol Short Protacio of Woodridge, Va., great-great-niece of Gov. Tener.

“He's our family and they've adopted him.”

The Tener family members drove in from across the country Thursday to attend the ceremonies Saturday. On Friday, they drove about an hour southwest to Bethany College in West Virginia, where the former governor among many Teners attended college.

Barbara Tener Steel Berry of Grand Island, N.Y., said the family members were excited to be on hand. She called Tener “a forward thinker.”

“What he did as governor was to build bridges among people in the communities,” said John E. Tener, of Boston, great-great-nephew of the former governor who is his namesake.

“It is only fitting that you build a bridge and name it for him because he was a bridge builder metaphorically.”

Hundreds crowded onto the bridge, crossing from the North Charleroi side to attend the ceremony.

Monessen officials, led by Smith, crossed the bridge from the Monessen side of the span. North Charleroi leaders, including Mayor Lee Hall, crossed from their side of the span and met in the middle for the ceremony.

Smith credited retired state Sen. J. Stout with acquiring the state funding for the project. Stout was a state senator and a member of the state Transportation Commission when the former Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was closed Feb. 19, 2009, after an inspection revealed deterioration.

PennDOT decided to replace the bridge rather than repair it, and the aged span was imploded July 11, 2011.

Built in 1907, the bridge was rehabilitated shortly after World War II and again in 1986.

The new bridge is named for Tener. As president of the Mercantile Bridge Co., Tener was instrumental in the development of the old span, which opened in 1907.

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

Construction was delayed by utility issues and high water.

“We had some delays, but finally got it built,” Stout said. “We preserved the historical significance of the original Charleroi-Monessen Bridge and the legislature named it for John K. Tener.”

Stout said the bridge units the Valley communities across the “life-giving Monongahela River.”

Stout said he first crossed the bridge in 1949, accompanying his parents from their Bentleyville home to shop in Monessen.

“The original bridge served this area well,” Stout said.

He advocated for the current state legislature to approve a new transportation bill.

“You see your tax dollars in transportation here,” Stout said. “This will last for many, many years, I'm sure.”

Carla Mast, representing Stout's replacement, state Sen. Timothy Solobay, noted the number of deteriorating bridges in state.

“As governor, (Tener) would have said, ‘one down, 4,000 to go,'” Mast said.

“Pennsylvania could use a man like John Tener.”

Reading a letter from state Rep. Peter J. Daley, Ron Lucy called Tener “a true hero for the Mon Valley.

“He is more than deserving of this honor.”

PennDOT District 12 District Executive Joe Szczur said the bridge construction was advanced at “hyper speed,” noting it normally would have only advanced to the bidding process so far, not completion.

“Thank you for a job well done,” Szczur said to representatives of the design and construction firms in attendance.

“Thank you,” one audience member shouted out to the PennDOT leader.

“Thank you for opening this vital artery for Monessen, Charleroi, North Charleroi, Carroll Township and beyond,” state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, said.

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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