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W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge completion opens 'gateway to McKeesport'

| Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, 4:06 a.m.
As local officials gathered to celebrate the completion of the $33.5 million W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge project, motorists rolled over the newly-renovated span deemed by some speakers as a 'gateway' into McKeesport.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
As local officials gathered to celebrate the completion of the $33.5 million W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge project, motorists rolled over the newly-renovated span deemed by some speakers as a 'gateway' into McKeesport.
Lined up to help U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, with ribbon cutting on the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge are, from left, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, Dravosburg council president Jay McKelvey and Mayor Michelle Vezzani, state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and county Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Lined up to help U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, with ribbon cutting on the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge are, from left, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, Dravosburg council president Jay McKelvey and Mayor Michelle Vezzani, state Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and county Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin.
State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and Dravosburg council president Jay McKelvey survey a restored plaque marking the construction of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge in 1951. Three such plaques were made, one of which was later stolen.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and Dravosburg council president Jay McKelvey survey a restored plaque marking the construction of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge in 1951. Three such plaques were made, one of which was later stolen.

A ribbon-cutting officially capped reconstruction of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge Tuesday.

“Welcome to the gateway to McKeesport,” state Rep. Bill Kortz said. He said he believes Mansfield, were he alive, would give his seal of approval to the project.

Mansfield, a state senator, Allegheny County commissioner and Daily News publisher, died before the bridge was completed in 1951.

As Kortz and otherssaid, it could be a future gateway to McKeesport and Glassport from an extended Mon/Fayette Expressway.

If that happens, state Sen. James Brewster said, “This is going to be a very important bridge.”

Brewster and all others on hand concluded that the Mansfield is important now.

“I would just like to thank all of the local, state and federal officials for taking an eyesore and turning it into a beautiful gateway over the Mon,” Dravosburg Mayor Michelle Vezzani said.

Vezzani, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and others gathered where the Maple Avenue on-ramp merges with the bridge.

Cherepko pointed out during the three-year project that it long was needed for a key artery between his city, the South Hills and Pittsburgh.

Tuesday's ceremony marked an end to a series of Mon River projects that began in 2000. More than $150 million was spent on Glenwood, Homestead Grays, Rankin, Riverton (bicycle) and Mansfield bridges.

“This really is the culmination of something we have been doing for many, many years,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Mansfield's final price tag is $33.5 million. Fitzgerald said it was done three months early and within budget.

“There are a lot of investments that the state and federal governments have made in the Mon Valley that will help economic growth,” Fitzgerald said. He and county Councilman Bob Macey of West Mifflin called attention to the roles played by Michael Baker International, SAI Consulting, contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. and workers, including Laborers Local 1058.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle was credited for helping provide the 80 percent federal share of the cost of the Mansfield project.

“One of the most important things we can do is to maintain the infrastructure,” Doyle said.

He said a local-state-federal partnership led to infrastructure such as the flyover ramps linking McKeesport and Duquesne business districts to former millsites.

“None of this happens if we do not work together in the same direction,” Doyle said.

Brewster said state and federal funds helped cover a nightmare he was confronted with as McKeesport's mayor — construction of ramps over railroad tracks on the McKeesport and Glassport side of the bridge.

The Public Utility Commission planned to hold McKeesport and Glassport responsible for more than $180,000 of the cost, but the county agreed late in 2011 to pick up the tab.

The ribbon-cutting was an opening for updates on other bridges. County public works operations manager George Thompson said he hopes Fitzgerald will be on hand next month when the Greensburg Pike Bridge reopens between Turtle Creek and North Versailles, where Thompson is president of the board of commissioners.

“It is a beautiful bridge,” Thompson said of the $16.2 million project.

It has shut down traffic for a year, affecting homes and businesses between the bridge and North Versailles Walmart.

Macey confirmed Thompson's news. He said his public works committee will meet Thursday at 4 p.m. in Conference Room 1 of the county courthouse to deal with his bill that would lease County Airport property to Consol for gas drilling.

A big project for the next two years will be in West Mifflin. Several took note of plans for the Thompson Run Bridge, officially the Homeville Viaduct Bridge over Thompson Run between West Mifflin Area High School and Village Shopping Center.

Work is proceeding on a flyover ramp from the Rankin Bridge to the Carrie Furnace project. Fitzgerald said funding sources for the project include federal money obtained under the 2009 Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery Act.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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