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Oakmont officials hope Hulton bridge replacement will open in 2012

| Sunday, May 20, 2007

PennDOT has announced it plans to replace the Hulton Bridge with a span that could open late in 2012.

Preliminary design work on the new bridge should start this summer. The complete design process could take up to five years to complete.

"This is a very exciting project," said Oakmont Manager Roger Dunlap.

Borough officials have been pushing for a wider, safer bridge connecting their community with Harmar.

The new bridge, Dunlap said, should be designed to reflect the "nature and character of Oakmont," a quaint town of about 7,000 people on the Allegheny River.

PennDOT, last month, awarded a design contract to Harrisburg-based Gannett Fleming Inc., chosen from among 11 firms that submitted proposals for the engineering work.

PennDOT has not released the cost of the contract. As of last October, PennDOT and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission said they had budgeted $2.5 million for engineering over the next two years.

Replacement cost of the bridge ranges from $50 million to $80 million, said Jim Struzzi, PennDOT spokesman. Construction, he said, should begin in 2011 and take two construction seasons to complete.

"We are hoping for late in 2012, but (it) will be determined during the design phase and dependent on available funding," Struzzi said.

The money to build the bridge will be a mix of state and federal funds. About 80 percent of the funding will be federal highway dollars.

Local leaders and state Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, have been among those pushing for PennDOT to replace the bridge, Struzzi said.

There are three options for maintaining traffic flow during construction. They are:

  • Replacing the bridge along its existing line while traffic is detoured.

  • Building the new span upstream from the existing one and having traffic cross Hulton Bridge during construction.

  • Building the new span, in stages, upstream. Traffic would be maintained on the existing bridge until enough new construction allows for traffic to cross the replacement bridge.

Struzzi said there will be road improvements on either side of the new bridge to accommodate the construction. He couldn't confirm that the current, two-lane bridge would be replaced by a four-lane structure.

"Although the existing bridge is safe, it is in need of extensive repair. It would take more money to complete the necessary rehabilitation than to replace it with a new structure," said Struzzi.

About 24,000 vehicles cross Hulton Bridge each day.

Harmar Police Capt. Rick Toney, said he watches traffic backups near the bridge almost daily. One of the biggest problems, he said, is that the bridge is too narrow for tractor-trailer trucks to turn onto it easily and safely.

"For them to build a wider bridge," he said, "it would make a significant difference."

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