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Bash to mark opening of Trafford Veterans Memorial Bridge

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted The state Department of Transportation will open the Trafford Veterans Memorial Bridge to traffic after a borough-planned dedication Saturday morning. Mosites Construction is the general contractor on the $11-million project, which began in April 2012.

The 18-month wait for a new bridge in Trafford ends this weekend.

After a dedication at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the PennDOT will open the new $11-million span to traffic, which will reconnect the borough to Monroeville via Route 130 and eliminate a two-mile detour on Forbes Road.

To celebrate, Trafford officials are throwing a bash covered by donations and featuring a parade of military personnel, fireworks and free food for the debut of the third bridge built since 1902 to carry traffic over Turtle Creek and a rail line.

This one, which will keep the Trafford Veterans Memorial Bridge designation assigned in 2010 to its predecessor, replaces a 1964 bridge that was deemed structurally deficient.

Over the past year and a half, the detour to reach Monroeville forced more traffic — especially tractor-trailers — to drive through downtown Trafford.

It also meant that an otherwise simple trip — such as going to the bank in the Haymaker Village plaza across the bridge — could take as long as 25 to 30 minutes because of heavy traffic at some points in the day instead of the usual five, said Tom Dobrinick, a member of the borough's bridge-dedication committee.

“I'm happy. I'm counting the days down just like everyone else,” Dobrinick said. “I think it was worth it because the bridge looks nice, and, hopefully, it will last a long time. I won't see another one.”

Though the dedication committee has met weekly since April to plan and raise funds, members have been especially busy in the last week advertising the ceremony details. Until early October, state officials maintained that Dec. 2 was the official end of the project, despite rumors of an earlier opening, committee chairman Larry George said.

After the state announced Saturday as the opening, George, an insurance agent, paid for 2,200 fliers to help announce the event to borough residents. He said it is hard to estimate how many people might attend, but the committee was planning to print at least 300 programs.

Residents will be invited to a free reception in the Manchester Room banquet hall after the dignitaries' speeches and the parade. Several restaurants are donating food and beverages, George said.

“We've had a real good response from most of our restaurants,” he said. “I've been pretty impressed.”

The parade across the bridge — from the west side near the Monroeville border to the intersection at Brinton Avenue and Fifth Street — will include active military personnel and veterans and the Penn-Trafford High School marching band, color guard and cheerleaders.

The first people to cross will be family members of the late National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Robert Fike. The 1989 Penn-Trafford graduate died Afghanistan in 2010.

Another participant will honor a Civil War veteran's 1913 march from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg, which at the time served as a 50-year commemoration of the pivotal and bloody three-day battle.

When James Smith of Hempfield began retracing Peter Guibert's 19-day path with a friend in late May, the bridge project caused him to walk the detour on Forbes Road to reconnect to Route 130.

Smith, 70, has been fascinated by the former drummer boy since the 1980s, when he bought and restored Guibert's 19th-century brass-shelled drum. Like Guibert, the Navy veteran who served in Vietnam beat the rope-tension snare drum every step of the 200-mile journey.

“It's just one of these things that it feels right,” Smith said. “It's still 2013. It's still 100 years, and we're doing whatever Peter Guibert might have done in 1913.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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