Bridge opening spurs commerce in Charleroi, Monessen
J. Barry Stout first crossed the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge in 1949, accompanying his parents from their Bentleyville home to shop in Monessen at the Checks Furniture Store.
Even by then, the bridge spanning the river between North Charleroi and Monessen had been providing a link for shoppers to cross the Monongahela River to shop in downtown business communities on both sides of the river for more than 40 years.
So when PennDOT closed the bridge Feb. 19, 2009, after an inspection revealed deterioration, and subsequently opted to replace the span rather than repair it, consumers were left having to detour around the shuttered span.
The detour would last close to 4½ years until June 29, when the state reopened the span and renamed it the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge.
Debbie Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, said she believes the bridge opening will make a significant difference to Charleroi businesses.
“However, the degree of significance would depend on the nature of the service and/or product,” Keefer said. “The restaurants will definitely benefit, especially the established ones. Dining is definitely one of the community's strengths, and those places are now easier to access from the entire population of Monessen.”
Keefer said the opening of the bridge will equally benefit businesses and shoppers.
“It was very telling, once the bridge closed, how much commerce is carried out between our communities,” Keefer said.
“We hope that any business that was lost is made up for by the reopening.”
Gary Boatman, president of the Monessen Chamber of Commerce, said Monessen businesses likely lost business during the bridge shutdown because of the inconvenience and required detours.
“During the bridge shutdown, shoppers from Charleroi or North Charleroi had to drive many miles to reach Monessen businesses,” Boatman said. “This required them to either use I-70 or drive around toward Donora.
“This made it easier (for them) to shop other areas. Seniors who wanted to avoid interstate traffic did not have a good choice.
“Monessen with its many local retailers, welcomes back all of our friends from across the river.”
Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Bottino said he does not think the opening of the new Tener bridge will have any impact on businesses in the Monongahela, Carroll Township and New Eagle areas.
“The greater Monongahela Area is accessed from the other side of the river via the Monongahela bridge, the Donora-Monessen Bridge and even the Elizabeth Bridge,” Bottino said. “Additionally, the Greater Monongahela Area has seen a greater impact via the Ringgold footprint and northwest. In town meetings, many have stated that we are pulling a good bit from Bethel, South Park and beyond.
“I know that there are a good many visitors from Pittsburgh. On the other hand, I believe that the Charleroi-Monessen bridge will reunite those two communities and facilitate better business in the Charleroi-Monessen area.”
But Gina Lynn, executive director of the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce, said the bridge opening is good for all of the Valley towns that are all connected by the river and bridges.
“The bridge opening will allow residents a more direct route to shopping, service and dining destinations in communities on both sides of the bridge,” Lynn said. “The convenience of the direct route may increase the frequency that residents travel to the businesses in the Greater Rostraver area. Daily commuters using the direct route may see a reduction in their fuel costs, giving them a bit more spending money for lunch or dinner during the course of their work week.
“Chamber members and businesses in Monessen should notice a traffic increase as residents traveling to Charleroi or North Charleroi from Rostraver, and vice versa, will find that route to be the most convenient.”
Lynn said it may take motorists and shoppers a little while to get used to the new traffic pattern and remember that the bridge is open.
“Twice this past week, I heard two people say, ‘I should have come the other way, I forgot the bridge was open.'”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.