Washington County bridge detour takes traffic into the country
A bridge replacement project on the main artery leading to a string of western Washington County hamlets is producing heavy traffic along normally quiet country roads.
“There's been a lot of traffic lately,” said Mark Brezarich, who lives off of South Hewitt Road in Canton. “There's a lot of big trucks down here. I thought they were drilling a well or something.”
Construction crews with C.H. & D. Enterprises of New Stanton razed a small bridge on Route 844, also known as Jefferson Avenue, this month. The work to replace the bridge, as well as improve the road and guiderails, should be finished by June 1, said Valerie Petersen, a spokeswoman for PennDOT's District 12, which includes Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The work is part of a contract C.H. & D. won to replace four bridges in the county, Petersen said. She did not have the total amount of the contract.
About 2,600 vehicles a day typically travel that section of Jefferson Avenue, which runs from the city of Washington to the West Virginia line and serves as a key connector to Canton, Hopewell and West Middletown. The official detour, which can take more than 21 miles, puts drivers on routes 18, 50 and 231.
Petersen said PennDOT cannot force vehicles to use the recommended detour. The only way to keep heavy trucks off secondary roads is if they are over a posted weight limit. No such signs are posted in that area, however.
“When we (put together) detours, we have to use state routes,” Petersen said.
But drivers don't.
Many are opting for shortcuts along Smiley Road and South Hewitt, which turns into Rural Valley Road.
A string of cars and large tri-axle trucks hummed along the winding stretch of secondary road with blind curves and hills behind Brezarich's house last week.
“I couldn't figure out why all of these big trucks were coming down here,” he said. “Mostly, you worry about the kids on the school buses.”
Clyde Hartzog of Washington watched vehicles drive up Smiley Road as he watered flower beds at his Ward Street house.
“They all ought to slow down a bit,” Hartzog said. “I know they're in a hurry because of the detour, but come on.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.