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Days are numbered for Donora-Webster bridge

| Friday, March 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Built in 1908, and closed a century later, the Donora-Webster bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But soon the span, renamed in recent years for Webster native and former Lt. Gov. Ernest Kline, will soon be history.

On May 22, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will solicit bids for the contract to raze the closed span.

The winning bid will most likely be awarded June 2 with a notice to proceed on July 7.

The span was closed in July 2009 because a routine inspection and structural analysis revealed that several main support beams had deteriorated.

A year after it was closed, the span was renamed for Kline. It never reopened.

Instead, PennDOT announced in February 2012 it would raze — but not rebuild — the bridge.

The decision, PennDOT said, was based on diminishing traffic over the bridge and the availability of other spans within a few miles.

At one time, the bridge was used by more than 10,000 vehicles a day and was considered a regional bridge. Less than a third of that number crossed it daily at the time it was closed.

There are five bridges spanning the Monongahela River within 10.3 miles, stretching from the Belle Vernon-Speers to the Monongahela Bridge.

Replacing the bridge would cost $25.5 million. In addition, it would cost as much as $10 million for engineering, utility relocation and right of way.

PennDOT estimates it will cost $2.5 million to $3 million to raze the bridge. The project is being funded by the State Bridge Program.

Typically, PennDOT inspects each state-owned bridge every other year. However, the Donora-Webster span was inspected yearly before its closure because of its deteriorating condition. It had a 3-ton weight limit beginning in 1986, when it was reopened after rehabilitation work. The bridge's condition is so tenuous that it remains off limits even to pedestrians.

The bridge demolition could be completed this year, dependent upon the contractor's plans, said PennDOT District 12 spokeswoman Valerie Petersen.

All environmental permits and right of way will be obtained prior to advertising the project.

It is anticipated that the land spans and piers will be demolished prior to the river spans being imploded. Petersen said the winning contractor will prepare and submit its demolition plan to the district for review and approval.

Plans won't be finalized until after the contract is awarded, but in past implosions, there were river restrictions, air restrictions and motorist restrictions.

“We rely on the expert blasting company to help us with this plan,” Petersen said.

After the bridge comes down, cleanup and grading will be done on the river banks, Petersen 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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