Munhall mayor wants East flyover widened

| Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010

"When I see the word 'flyover,' I sizzle," said Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar. "Whether it be Duquesne no matter where it is McKeesport. It's not because I begrudge anybody."

The mayor has been writing letters requesting the 26-foot-wide East flyover bridge in and out of the Waterfront be widened for the past nine years.

He said the East flyover bridge in Munhall was on the PennDOT and Southwest Pennsylvania Commission agendas, among others, to be widened in the early part of the decade and the project never materialized.

The SPC is the region's forum that plans and prioritizes the use of state and federal transportation funds designated to a 10-county region around Pittsburgh.

"This has been nine years for me for crying out loud," Bodnar said. "There is no money for it. It gets put off every year because other projects have a higher priority. The Rankin Bridge took priority along with the Homestead Grays Bridge."

Bodnar, who also serves as Steel Valley Council of Governments president, said there are only two ways into the Waterfront from Route 837.

"If something happens to the Amity Street entrance in Homestead, you have real problems down there," he said. "For instance, when one of the cars with hazardous materials derailed down there last year."

Bodnar said the Route 837 area, including the Rankin Bridge, the East flyover bridge and Ravine Street, is the site of much congestion.

He said not only is the flyover bridge too narrow, truck traffic gets stuck on the dogleg of guardrail.

"We replaced the guardrail a couple times there," Bodnar said.

He said another issue is that the East flyover bridge should connect to the Hot Metal Bridge, which links the eastern portion of the Waterfront to the Carrie Furnace site across the Monongahela River.

"This isn't just a project to widen the bridge," Bodnar said. "This is connecting the Hot Metal Bridge to alleviate traffic from Rankin and other areas to the east."

Bodnar said when PennDOT performed an engineering study on the East flyover bridge in 2005, it estimated the project to cost $4 million to $5 million.

He said he feels the flyover bridge and Rankin Bridge work should have been done at the same time to eliminate two different instances of major traffic disruption on Route 837.

Allegheny County began construction on the Rankin Bridge in January 2009 and it is scheduled to be complete by April 2011.

PennDOT District 11 chief bridge engineer Louis Ruzzi said there is no funding and no movement on the East flyover bridge.

He said while Munhall borough owns the bridge, PennDOT is involved because of another project proposed to widen Route 837.

Bodnar said he's going to continue to write letters requesting funding for flyover construction.

"To me, it's a high priority because of the traffic problems," he said. "I hope I'm around when it all gets fixed up."

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