Dambach Avenue Bridge reopens to residents' delight

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

People partied after Mel Aiken, owner of a local auto body shop, recently drove his 1977 Chevy Scottsdale over the new Dambach Avenue Bridge on the border of Richland and Valencia.

“Everybody appreciates the bridge project,” said Aiken, who led the local residents' push to get the new, one-way, 21-foot span.

“It'll get well used,” Aiken said.

When the old Dambach Avenue Bridge deteriorated, Richland supervisors closed Dambach Avenue more than five years ago — and eliminated a popular shortcut for motorists, pedestrians, ambulances and fire fighters.

But neighbors' persistence and pleas eventually led the township supervisors to replace the bridge and resurface the avenue for about $107,560.

“People started going to (township) meetings,” Aiken said. “I don't think they (Richland officials) realized how much people missed the bridge, and how much it was used.”

After the old Dambach Bridge closed, Chris McNamara of Richland, a dog walker for Grand Paws Pet Sitting & Home Care, climbed over barriers to walk across the old bridge near downtown Valencia.

“Lots of people walk around this town, “McNamara said. “The old bridge was falling in. You could see through the asphalt and into the creek. “

Crews were still installing guardrails when Richland Supervisor Ray Kendrick ceremoniously snipped a yellow ribbon at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 22 — under a gentle rain — to open the new Dambach Avenue Bridge. Richland Supervisor John Marshall also attended the bridge opening.

“It boiled down to safety,” Kendrick said about the need to replace and reopen the bridge. “From a first responder's standpoint, it was a necessity. ... You need to have ambulances, police and other first responders able to service the north end of the township.”

A lunch-hour cookout at nearby Aiken's Auto Body immediately followed the bridge opening.

“We've been fighting for a long time to get it open,” said longtime customer Frank Govan, 77, one of about 20 people who attended the cookout.

Pastor Bob Martin of Valencia United Methodist led the group in a prayer of thanksgiving and invoked God's blessings on everyone before folks helped themselves to food.

Dave Wass and Bill Mauroff, both of Adams Township, grilled two dozen hamburgers — and a lot of hot dogs — to accompany guests' homemade brownies and casseroles, plus, a big sheet cake, picturing a bridge in icing, from Giant Eagle.

“It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, even though it's gray and rainy,” Richland Manager Dean Bastianini told the party goers. “The response of this party shows how appreciative the residents and neighbors are that government listened to them. That's how local government is supposed to act.”

Bastianini also credited Kendrick, one of Richland's five supervisors, for leading his elected colleagues to heed residents' pleas for a new bridge.

“Mr. Kendrick advocated for the replacement of the bridge, and the remainder of the board (of supervisors) listened to the people, and they listed to Ray, and they authorized the township to obtain bids,” Bastianini said. “When the bids came in lower than expected, it became clear it was financially responsible to proceed.”

Pauline Kramer, Mel Aiken's sister, made a cheesy potato casserole for the party to celebrate the reopening of the Dambach Avenue Bridge, and to thank Richland's elected officials.

“We wanted to show them how much we appreciated it,” Kramer said.“Because we really do.”

Kramer, 70, still lives across the street from her brother's Valencia Road business in the two-story house where their parents raised five children.

As a girl, Kramer walked over the old Dambach Avenue Bridge to buy candy at a neighborhood store — and avoid the busy, nearby intersection of Valencia and Three Degree roads.

“That's all we knew, since we lived here. It's a shortcut,” Kramer said. “We really missed it.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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