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Transportation law allows Washington County to rebuild roads, bridges

| Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
Jason Cato | Trib Total Media
Crews with Lindy Paving poured asphalt on Valley Brook Road in Peters. The roadway has been closed for more than a year from Route 19 to the Montour Trail. PennDOT officials said they hope to reopen the road to traffic by Labor Day, though construction will continue.
Jason Cato | Trib Total Media
Workers with Donegal Construction move equipment into place so concrete could be poured for the deck of a bridge spanning Pigeon Creek in North Bethlehem. It is one of nine bridges the company is replacing this summer, with work to be completed by Sept. 23.

Money from the latest state transportation law is paving the way for increased work on roads and bridges across Washington County.

Of about $69 million in Act 89 money dedicated this year to PennDOT's District 12 — Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties — $25 million will go to Washington County.

“We can get some badly needed paving done,” said Bill Kovach, the district's assistant district executive for construction.

The law, passed in November, provides money for projects involving public transportation, bridge and road work, and Pennsylvania Turnpike expansion. More than $2 billion is expected to churn through the program by its fifth year, which PennDOT says will help repair thousands of bridges and improve or rebuild 10,000 miles of roads.

“That gave us a lot more projects in Washington County,” Kovach said.

Crews and contractors working for PennDOT or municipalities have completed or are working on almost 40 road and bridge projects throughout the county, although not all are using Act 89 money.

One that isn't is in Peters, where Casey Teagarden and her husband in 2011 moved their young family to Old Washington Road. For more than a year, their road has been closed because of major construction on Valley Brook Road a few hundred yards away.

“We weren't here very long before all this mess started,” said Teagarden, 38, an avid runner. The drive to Montour Trail, which used to take less than a minute, takes up to 15 minutes with the detour. “It used to take longer to get the kids in the car than it did to get to the trail.”

Work on Valley Brook started in May 2013, routing 11,000 vehicles a day to alternate roads as crews reconfigured the intersection at Route 19 with a design improvement and traffic light to reduce congestion. Kovach said PennDOT hopes to reopen Valley Brook by Labor Day, although construction would continue.

“There is still a lot to be done, but that is our goal,” he said.

Teagarden beamed at the news.

“I look forward to it,” she said over the sound of heavy equipment and the smell of hot asphalt.

Since April, John Grace and his crews with Donegal Construction of Greensburg have charged through Washington County, replacing nine small bridges as part of a $2.3 million project using Act 89 money. Six are done.

“We're now on No. 7,” said Grace, 65, a bridge superintendent. “We have to be done by Sept. 23. Thank God the weather has been cooperative.”

Kovach said the weather helped move PennDOT's work along.

“This has been a good summer. It was a little difficult on our paving contractors early on, but they are making up time now,” he said. “We're on schedule. But we will be working vigorously up until Thanksgiving. And several projects could continue through winter.”

That includes upcoming major work to the Interstate 70 interchange with Route 19 in South Strabane, a $51 million project.

“I figure any work we can do this year, we will,” Kovach said.

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach himat 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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