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Bridge replacement plans raise concerns

| Tuesday, March 26, 2002

North Versailles - There is little dispute over the need to do something about the deteriorating Greensburg Pike Bridge that connects North Versailles to Turtle Creek.

But some residents are worried about the effect on the community of closing down the heavily traveled span during repairs — or replacement. Work on the bridge, built in 1925, is not expected to begin until early 2005.

Allegheny County public works officials say of the three possible plans — do nothing with the bridge, refurbish the span or replace it — the third is the preferable option.

Federal money will cover 80 percent of the $6.3 million project with 15 percent coming from the state and 5 percent by Allegheny County.

To minimize the length of time the bridge will be out of service, engineers say a new bridge can be built and then tied into the existing roadway.

"The new bridge that will be built is on a slightly different alignment that will allow us to build the whole structure and then tie it in at the ends while utilizing the existing bridge during construction. Traffic will be maintained as long as possible before we make those tie-ins with the new bridge," said Stephen P. Shadle, a senior engineer for Maguire Group Inc. of Pittsburgh. Engineers estimate it will take two to three months to tie in the new bridge. Shadle outlined the project during a public meeting recently.

Despite assurances that steps would be taken to minimize the time motorists will have to follow detours, some residents remained skeptical about how quick the project can be completed.

"Ask me if I believe what I have heard here and I would have to say no," said Beverly Homa of George Street in Turtle Creek, who agrees the bridge needs to be replaced.

"Something that starts out as nothing ends up being a monster. This will probably be the same way. What they tell you will be the final outcome will be completely different at the end," Homa said.

Russell Saula, president of the West Wilmerding Fire Co. is concerned that the bridge's closure will reduce response time on calls in which fire company from the two towns are needed to assist each other.

"We assist the Turtle Creek Fire Deparmeant, and they assist us with manpower and an airtruck," Saula said. "That will be a problem if and when they close the bridge. Anytime time is of the essence, there will be a problem. Also, are we going to be able to get emergency vehicles and personnel into First Street in North Versailles to give those residents services if necessary?"

Saula also was concerned that the plans might require moving the fire hydrant that serves the area where the bridge will be joined to the existing roadway.

"That is a big concern to me as to how long that hydrant will be down because there aren't too many of them in that area."

George Doperak of Monroeville, who owns Doperak's Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy on Penn Avenue in Turtle Creek near the bridge, is concerned that the replacement project could force him to lose valuable parking space.

"I may not know this for another year, and my concern is for my business, as I really don't have any property to give up," Doperak said. "Even a bridge closing of two or three months could be critical to my pharmacy business, which I started there 26 years ago. I can't get specific answers as to how it will directly affect me. If I want to continue in business, I guess I have to be open to any ideas even relocation, which I hope, doesn't happen. Turtle Creek is a nice community, and we hope to keep it that way."

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