Bands to key Beaver County bridge opening

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Ceremonies on Monday featuring three high school bands will mark the long-awaited completion of the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Beaver County and the dedication of a nearby veterans' memorial.

“It's a beautiful bridge,” said Jerry Fisher, chairman of the committee that planned the memorial. “We thought it deserved more than just a road sign.”

The $22.5 million span will connect Routes 18 and 65 with Route 51 over the Beaver River when it opens to traffic on Tuesday. At 600 feet long, it's the first bridge built by the county in 55 years.

Expected to handle more than 2.1 million vehicles a year, the Veterans Memorial Bridge will link the communities of Beaver Falls, Bridgewater, Brighton, New Brighton and Rochester.

The bridge took about three and a half years to build and replaces a span that was built in 1884 at the same site, but was torn down several years ago, county public works director James Camp said. Travelers in the region used the Fallston Bridge to the north to cross the Beaver River.

County Commissioner Dennis Nichols said the new span will ease traffic and provide better access for emergency vehicles, including those headed to the Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton.

He expects the Veterans Memorial Bridge to boost economic development. “There's talk about developing Bridgewater, but it's going to help both sides of the river,” he said.

Tim Ishman, the county's recreation and tourism director, said the bridge should attract visitors to Beaver County.

“Any time you can remove an obstacle or inconvenience and make getting from one point to another easier, people are more likely to travel to facilities and events to participate,” he said.

State approval for the bridge was secured in 1992, and the project gained momentum after a second engineering study in 2004, Camp said.

“After that, things moved fast,” he said, noting construction was done on time and under budget.

A committee sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Beaver County Chapter 862, was organized two years ago to pay for a memorial on the Bridgewater side. It raised about $100,000 so far, treasurer Larry Googins said.

Standing about nine feet, the black granite structure contains a replica of the Pentagon and insignias of seven military service branches. A surrounding wall is adorned with 21 stones symbolizing the rounds of a military gun salute.

As part of a fundraiser, about 600 engraved bricks were sold and added to the design, Googins said. The site, which includes a flagpole, will be illuminated at night.

Googins said businesses and individuals donated money and labor. “It's been a rewarding project,” he said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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