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Dawson Bridge project worries first responders

| Thursday, March 9, 2006

While Dawson residents will have a renovated bridge once summer is over, first responders fear the months of work involved with the project will be a problem.

The project is scheduled to start June 5 and end Aug. 27, with crews working six days a week, 10 hours a day to speed up the process.

Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12 in Uniontown, said the Dawson Bridge project includes a deck replacement, and will cost approximately $2.5 million. Also, while the deck is removed, the bridge crews will inspect the beams and the piers to see if any repair work on those structures are required.

Ofsanik said the bridge repair is being done in June, July and August because school is not in session, and the buses would run extremely late because of the detour.

"There will be a detour, a long one," Ofsanik said of the stretch that will run for 11 miles.

Motorists traveling from Vanderbilt to Dawson will have to take Route 201 in Connellsville to Route 119 at Narrows Road toward Broadford and finally onto Hill Valley Drive to the back side of Dawson. Ofsanik said detour signs will be posted.

"Nobody likes to travel around the bridge, but we need a new bridge," said Patti Lint, Dawson Borough Council president.

Lint said the churches that have vacation Bible school in the summer and the few businesses in Dawson that have out-of-town customers are going to be hurt by the project.

However, Rick Adobato, director of Fayette County 911, is more worried about residents' safety.

"This is going to get ugly," Adobato said.

He noted that Fayette County 911 has responded with ambulance service to 42 calls in Dawson and Lower Tyrone Township in the past six months.

"I hope nobody dies over this," he said.

Adobato said that while he was left out of much of the project's planning issues, he has prepared for June through August as much as he could.

First, he has placed a state-licensed, fully equipped Jeep at the Dawson Volunteer Fire Department.

Second, three medics and three emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, employed by Fayette County 911, who live in Dawson, have agreed to respond to emergencies while they're at home and to have a patient stabilized until an ambulance arrives.

"If it gets really bad, Mutual Aid from Scottdale or Perryopolis can arrive," Adobato said. "But a train on those tracks is my biggest fear."

Lint said that, although trains and the bridge closure are major concerns, she feels the first responders are capable and responsible enough to get to wherever they need to go.

Adobato said he hopes to have 12 to 13 trained people in Dawson, noting six firefighters at Dawson VFD are taking EMT classes to help out, and "they should have the course completed by the time the project begins."

Adobato is also concerned for that fire department, which complements DL&V volunteer firemen in Vanderbilt, both of which will face problems with manpower when fighting fires.

"This shouldn't be happening," Adobato said of the scope of the project. "I cannot believe they can't keep half that bridge open."

Adobato added that PennDOT should have made arrangements for public safety and shouldn't have let the bridge deteriorate over the years before deciding to repair it.

"I have such a bad feeling about this," Adobato said.

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