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Major Mon Valley bridges structurally sound

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Tractor Trailer passes rusted bridge support on the east bound, I-70, Speers Bridge. On Tuesday, July,2,2913.

During ceremonies to open the Gov. John K. Tener Memorial Bridge, Carla Mast, representing state Sen. Timothy Solobay, noted the number of deteriorating bridges in the state.

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

But in the Valley, the prognosis appears to be a little more optimistic. With the former Charleroi-Monessen Bridge replaced, other major bridges in the area are holding up well – for now.

The Tener Bridge – opened last weekend – is expected to be usable for decades. It replaced the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge, which 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 Charleroi-Monessen Bridge had been on the state's list of structurally deficient bridges. There are more than 4,000 such bridges statewide.

In PennDOT District 12 – encompassing Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties – 562 of 2,338 state-owned bridges, nearly one in four, are structurally deficient.

Additionally, 1,504 bridges – nearly two in three in District 12 – are more than 50 years old.

The only major Valley bridge that is structurally deficient is the Donora-Webster span, which has been closed since July 2009, because of its deteriorating condition.

Although it had undergone rehabilitation work, the span had a 3-ton weight limit for 23 years. The bridge was built in 1908.

District 12 bridge engineer Don Herbert said the state is moving forward with plans to raze the span – renamed in 2010 for Webster native and former Lt. Gov. Ernest Kline.

He said the state hopes to let bids for that project by spring 2015.

Other major bridges in the Valley are faring better.

Built in 1972, the Donora-Monessen Bridge had undergone a “full-blown rehab” by 2009, Herbert noted. Deck repair was a major part of that work, but the span was also painted.

The bridge – renamed in 2012 for Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial – was not structurally deficient at the time of the work, Herbert said.

“We had done some Band-Aid work on that bridge a few years prior to that,” Herbert noted.

The Smithton High Level Bridge, carrying Interstate 70 over the Youghiogheny River between Rostraver and South Huntingdon townships, was built in 1956.

Rehabilitated in 2002, it is structurally sound.

The Lane-Bane Bridge, which carries U.S. 40 over the Monongahela River between Brownsville and West Brownsville, was built in 1960 and underwent major repairs in 2002.

The Brownsville Bridge, located just south of the Lane-Bane Bridge, was built in 1913. It replaced a wooden span built in 1831.

The Brownsville Bridge underwent significant improvements in 1981.

The Belle Vernon-Speers Bridge, carrying Interstate 70 over the Monongahela River, was built in 1951 and rehabilitated in 1983.

“We currently have a bridge preservation project under design,” Herbert said. “Hopefully, we will let that project sometime in 2015.

“That is preservation work to keep a relatively good bridge good – to extend its life.”

That work will involve expansion system repairs, painting and deck repairs, Herbert said.

The project will likely will cost $5 million to $10 million.

“We hope to be in a position where we can do preservation work on the bridges in some regular cycles,” Herbert said.

Three other Valley spans – the Monongahela, Elizabeth and Boston bridges – are maintained by PennDOT District 11. None of those bridges is on the structurally-deficient list.

The Monongahela Bridge was built in 1988. The span was moved slightly south of a former bridge, which intersected with downtown Monongahela on the Washington County side of the Monongahela River. The current bridge has not undergone significant repairs in the quarter century since it opened.

The Elizabeth Bridge was built in 1951. The last rehabilitation work on that bridge was completed in 1985.

There have been bridge inspections, minor maintenance and three overlays since that time, PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan said.

The Boston Bridge, which spans the Youghiogheny River from Versailles to Elizabeth Township, was built in 1931.

The most recent rehabilitation work took place from June 2010 to May 2012.

The scope of work included deck replacement, structural steel repairs, bearing replacement and substructure concrete repairs, Cowan said.

“The Boston Bridge was structurally deficient prior to the rehabilitation project; however the bridge was not weight restricted,” Cowan said.

“The bridge is no longer structurally deficient.”

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