ShareThis Page

Work planned on Route 981 bridge in Latrobe

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Motorists traveling through Latrobe will have to adjust to new traffic patterns in 2017 when work begins on resurfacing the Route 981 bridge across Loyalhanna Creek.

Concerns about traffic impacts and about the aesthetics associated with the project were aired Thursday when PennDOT unveiled its plans in Latrobe City Council chambers.

Officials reassured representatives from Westmoreland County Community College and from the Castle Co-Packers bottling company, two businesses close to the bridge, that they will continue to have access from Route 981 (Lloyd Avenue) during rehabilitation of the aging span. But Owen Beachy, spokesman for design consultant The EADS Group, explained detours will be in place during the resurfacing phase of the project, expected to occur during the 2017 construction season.

According to Beachy, one lane of traffic will be maintained for most motorists heading north across the bridge into downtown Latrobe, but all southbound traffic will be rerouted. The proposed official detour will divert motorists along Industrial Boulevard and routes 982 and 30, though Latrobe officials noted a much shorter route may be found through the city's North Side.

Additional restrictions may apply for heavy trucks.

“We want to keep truck traffic northbound and southbound out of the project work zone,” Beachy said.

The high volume of traffic on the bridge — 17,000 vehicles per day, according to a 2011 study — prompted planners to favor a detour over maintaining two-way traffic with temporary signals, which was predicted to delay motorists 15 minutes to a half hour during the peak time from 2 to 7 p.m., Beachy said: “We felt that was unacceptable.”

While the detours could create a temporary headache for downtown businesses and those departing events such as the Latrobe Farmers Market, Latrobe Mayor Rosemarie Wolford said the inconvenience will be outweighed by the long-term benefit of preserving and enhancing the concrete arch bridge, which serves as the city's main gateway. “I'm excited about it,” she said.

Beachy noted planners initially thought they'd have to replace the 1896 span, which was last renovated in the 1950s. But, he said, a closer inspection revealed that “the bones of the structure are actually in pretty good shape” and convinced engineers it would be better to simply replace the asphalt “skin” covering the concrete.

Aesthetic and safety updates are planned, including installation of period lighting and a barrier that will separate pedestrians from traffic.

Jarod Trunzo, executive director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, expressed concern that the barrier not block motorists' view of the improved Loyalhanna waters, no longer marred by an unappealing orange discoloration. PennDOT project manager Sean Sepe said the concrete base of the barrier need be no higher than 2 feet, 8 inches, which should still allow a scenic view for motorists.

Wolford is organizing a focus group to give project planners with input on aesthetics.

According to Sepe, the state will provide funding for the improvements, which are estimated to cost between $2 million and $5 million. Bids are to be let in July, with construction to be completed by November 2017.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me