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Bridge between Monessen, North Charleroi reopens after 4-year rehab

Jim Ference | Valley Independent - North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall marries Assistant Fire Chief Michael Castner of the Lock 4 Volunteer Fire Department in North Charleroi and Robecca Novotne of Monessen during opening ceremonies Saturday for the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge. The new span over the Monongahela River links Charleroi and Monessen.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference  |  Valley Independent</em></div>North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall marries Assistant Fire Chief Michael Castner of the Lock 4 Volunteer Fire Department in North Charleroi and Robecca Novotne of Monessen during opening ceremonies Saturday for the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge. The new span over the Monongahela  River links Charleroi and Monessen.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent - Workers from J.B. Fay Construction Company go over final checklist before the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge, between North Charleroi and Monessen on Saturday, June 29, 2013. Left, concrete foreman, James Porter Jr., general labor foreman, Joe Cole, superintendent, Ray Vitori, and carpenter foreman, Rich Sanders. On Friday, June, 28,2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jim Ference |  The Valley Independent</em></div>Workers from J.B. Fay Construction Company go over final checklist before the opening of the new John K. Tener Bridge, between North Charleroi and Monessen on Saturday, June 29, 2013.  Left, concrete foreman, James Porter Jr., general labor foreman, Joe Cole, superintendent, Ray Vitori, and carpenter foreman, Rich Sanders.  On Friday, June, 28,2013.
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- Thelma Palmer of North Charleroi listens to retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout of Bentleyville at the opening of the new John K.Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
Thelma Palmer of North Charleroi listens to retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout of Bentleyville at the opening of the new John K.Tener Bridge on Saturday, June 29, 2013.
- Danielle Kubincanek of Bentlyville becomes one of the first motorists to cross the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge as she drives over the span with passenger Thelma Palmer of North Charleroi.
 Danielle Kubincanek of Bentlyville becomes one of the first motorists to cross the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge as she drives over the span with passenger Thelma Palmer of North Charleroi.
- Monessen and Lock 4 Fire trucks meet in the middle of the new John K. Tener bridge, after the opening ceremonies on Saturday, June, 29,2013.
Monessen and Lock 4 Fire trucks meet in the middle of the new John K. Tener bridge, after the opening ceremonies on Saturday, June, 29,2013.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013, 1:06 p.m.
 

After a $26.1 million overhaul, the bridge spanning the Monongahela River between Monessen and North Charleroi opened to traffic on Saturday for the first time in nearly 4 12 years.

“It's beautiful,” said Irene Lesko, 86, of Jacobs Creek, who grew up in a North Charleroi neighborhood under the bridge. She said she was unsure she would live to see the day when the bridge reopened.

“I never thought that they would make it this beautiful.”

The bridge, once called the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge, is the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge, named for the former Charleroi businessman who served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1911 to 1915.

About a dozen descendants of Tener attended the dedication ceremony.

“What he did as governor was to build bridges among people in the communities,” said John E. Tener of Boston, a great-great-nephew who is his namesake.

“It is only fitting that you build a bridge and name it for him because he was a bridge builder metaphorically.”

Built in 1907, the bridge was rehabilitated shortly after World War II and again in 1986. It closed on Feb. 19, 2009, when an inspection revealed deterioration in the first 200-foot span closest to Monessen.

Hundreds crowded onto the bridge for the dedication. Monessen officials, lead by Mayor Mary Jo Smith, crossed it from the Monessen side. North Charleroi leaders, including Mayor Lee Hall, crossed from their side. They met in the middle for the ceremony.

Retired state Sen. J. Stout said the bridge unites the communities across the “life-giving Monongahela River.”

As part of the celebration, Robecca Novotne of Monessen and Michael Castner of North Charleroi got married on the bridge.

“As this bridge unites two communities, this (wedding) ceremony joins two lives together.” Hall noted.

Before the ceremony at the veterans memorial near the North Charleroi side of the span, officials unveiled a historic marker that honors North Charleroi and the plaque from the original bridge, now embedded in stone from a pillar of the former span.

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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