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New Hulton Bridge project moves closer to starting

Preparations for a new bridge to replace the Hulton Bridge are moving ahead steadily, according to PennDOT officials.

"We're still a long way from construction," said PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi.

"We still don't have funding completed for construction. It has been in design for several years. (Preparations) have never been stopped."

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, head of the PennDOT department designing the bridge, said construction is expected to start next year. Completion is expected in 2015.

She confirmed the cost estimate of between $70 million and $90 million, which includes demolition of the current bridge.

PennDOT expects 80 percent of the money will come from the federal government.

"Right now we will be actively approaching the property owners as the acquisition phase goes into full gear," Moon-Sirianni said.

Robert Collins, PennDOT's project manager, said the new bridge will carry four traffic lanes and a pedestrian walkway.

It will be 69 feet wide and about 1,700 feet long, spanning the Allegheny River between Harmar and Oakmont.

It will be located on the upstream side and close to the Hulton Bridge, which will continue to handle traffic during construction of the new span.

Hulton Bridge was built in 1908. It became even more of a landmark when its overhead steel support trusses were painted lavender.

Although it has undergone several updates, the two-lane bridge is still antiquated.

"It is too narrow, and it wasn't designed for the weights of today," Collins said.

Updating the bridge again really is not an option, he said.

"We would probably have to close the bridge down for a significant amount of time with no real detour," he said. "I know it has served its useful life."

There will be no overhead trusses on the new bridge, which will be concrete and steel, according to Moon-Sirianni. It will have four support piers, two of which will be in the river.

"There is nothing unusual or special about it," she said. "We tried to make it look nice and make it fit in with the concept of the community and the river."

Moon-Sirianni said PennDOT will work with the Army Corps of Engineers, which governs river operations, during the construction. She said river traffic will be maintained, although there may be some shutdowns requested by the contractor from time to time.

Linking the new bridge with the Route 28 expressway was an option that PennDOT did explore, Moon-Sirianni and Collins said.

She said even adding one exit ramp to the northbound lanes would have been difficult because of the change in land elevation from the expressway to Freeport Road in Harmar.

"Route 28 is an interstate and you can only have so much of a grade for a ramp; it's about 8 percent," Moon-Sirianni said. "To put a ramp in there, it would have to be at least a half-mile long, and that would have been cost prohibitive."

"We looked at that in the feasibility study," Collins said, "and that would have doubled the size of the project and doubled the cost of the project."

He said that a full interchange for Route 28 traffic is only a half-mile away from the bridge in Harmar.

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