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Fort Duquesne Bridge rehab plan lauded

| Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

A $26.2 million project to preserve the Fort Duquesne Bridge is a example of smart use of federal stimulus money to put people to work and save important infrastructure, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said Thursday.

"When (it is) completed next year, motorists will get a smoother ride over the Fort Duquesne Bridge and continue to enjoy one of the most scenic views of Pittsburgh's skyline," Mendez said during a visit to the North Shore.

PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler said the project will put 60 more people to work for West Mifflin-based Trumbull Corp., and could create jobs for subcontractors and businesses producing and transporting construction materials.

Work begins Monday, but PennDOT officials said the 80,000 daily travelers on the bridge won't see any lane closures until after Labor Day.

The project will require nighttime and weekend closures of lanes and ramps on the upper, northbound deck and the lower, southbound deck, including a one- or two-week-long total closure of the lower deck sometime next year, said PennDOT District Executive Dan Cessna. Detour signs will be posted.

Assistant Construction Engineer Brad Miller said the closures and detours will start after Sept. 7 on the upper deck, and move to the lower deck sometime next year.

The project was unfunded in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission's transportation improvement plan, but leapfrogged its way to the front of the Pittsburgh area's priority list after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed.

PennDOT rushed through plans for the preservation work and put the project to bid within three months, Cessna said.

Biehler said the Fort Duquesne Bridge got priority because of the volume of traffic it carries and its importance to the local highway network.

Replacing the latex-and-concrete road surface, repainting and sealing the exterior and interior of the bridge's box girders, resetting rocker bearings, and replacing the dams, plates and seals that keep water and road salt from seeping onto the structural supports should add 15 to 25 years of useful life to the bridge before it might need another overhaul, Biehler said.

"You can spend a lot less money if you can catch it at the right point," Biehler said.

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