TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Deteriorating Rankin-Swissvale bridge draws ire of residents

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Bobby Kerlik
Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Janine Houser is afraid to walk across the rusting Kenmawr Bridge from Rankin to Swissvale, because its sidewalks are closed and a makeshift barrier that allows pedestrians to cross doesn't offer much protection from heavy traffic.

“I can't cross this bridge. I wait to catch the (bus) to go to Wilkinsburg or Oakland,” said Houser, 44, of Rankin.

More than a dozen community members rallied on Tuesday at the bridge to ask government leaders to fix or replace the crumbling structure that spans railroad tracks and carries traffic from Braddock Avenue to near the Rankin Bridge.

The sidewalks are closed, and a fence erected on one side of the bridge gives pedestrians a narrow barrier from passing cars. Rusting rebar juts from the underbelly of the bridge.

PennDOT lowered the weight limit on the bridge for most vehicles to six tons from 12 in January, forcing Port Authority to redirect four bus routes beginning in February, two of which travel the nearby East Busway.

“This bridge is a poster child for what's wrong with transportation funding in Pennsylvania,” said Chris Sandvig, regional policy director for the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, which sponsored the rally. “A bus has to drive 15 to 20 minutes out of its way just to (detour around) this bridge.”

Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said detours started seven months ago because of the condition of the Kenmawr Bridge have become permanent.

“During the initial detour phase, before the detours essentially became indefinite routing changes, the affected bus routes were delayed an average 10 to 15 minutes each trip,” Pharo said. “It's a difficult area to detour through.”

Since then, times have been trimmed, she said.

Swissvale borough engineer Robert Zischkau said rehabilitation and replacement plans have been in the works since 1992, but a lack of cooperation among governments and funding problems put the project on hold until PennDOT agreed to take over management within the past few months. He said the bridge must be replaced at a cost of $3 million to $7 million.

“It's just been delay after delay,” Zischkau said. “But I do think with PennDOT, it will make things go a lot faster.”

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, assistant district executive for PennDOT, said the agency is considering replacement options, but there is no timetable. She said about $460,000 of federal money is available for the project. Allegheny County, Swissvale, Rankin and Norfolk Southern Railroad are involved in discussions, she said.

“Right now, there's no additional funds,” Moon-Sirianni said.

In the interim, Norfolk Southern has responsibility to rehab the bridge to allow it to sustain a 12-ton weight limit, Moon-Sirianni said.

Dave Pidgeon, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, confirmed the railroad is responsible for the superstructure and substructure but wouldn't comment further.

“Anything related to the future of the bridge speaks to the preliminary engineering agreement we have with the county and (Swissvale), and there's nothing for (Norfolk Southern) to announce right now,” Pidgeon said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
  2. Newsmaker: Stephanie McMahon
  3. Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant
  4. Pittsburgh is planning to add network of bike lanes through Oakland
  5. Central Catholic High School class celebrates 65 years of bond
  6. Amtrak still working to add bicycle racks to Western Pa. train routes
  7. School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
  8. Thief’s attorney blames Rivers Casino; judge isn’t swayed
  9. Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor
  10. Brookline seniors to get update on bedbug infestation
  11. Former Penn Hills football player found not guilty of homicide