NORTH CHARLEROI – It took just 15 minutes for a giant crane to hoist the first 60-ton section of steel from a barge in the Monongahela River to the top of a pier for workers to guide into place Tuesday to create a new Charleroi-Monessen Bridge.
Getting the steel to the job site on time is another story.
“It’s been a long time getting here,” said Ray Vitori, a superintendent for the contractor building the $26 million span, Joseph B. Fay Co. of Tarentum.
Unforeseen construction delays have put the bridge a month or more behind its originally scheduled November opening.
Meanwhile, the steel needed to be trucked from Virginia and then floated by barge down the Ohio and Monongahela rivers from Coraopolis, where it was preassembled to make up for lost time, said Len J. Kubitza, assistant construction manager for the state Department of Transportation.
“The goal is to have this open in December,” Kubitza said Tuesday, adding PennDOT will hold a progress meeting on the bridge today with Fay.
Steady rains and high water on the Monongahela over the winter stalled construction of a pier. PennDOT also experienced delays in getting the utilities removed the old bridge and faced issues with CSX before an old bridge section could be removed above railroad tracks in Monessen.
The two piers were built in such a way to make the concrete appear to look like stone, Vitori said. The concrete also will be stained brown to finish the look, he said.
“We wanted it to look nice,” said Nikki Sheppick, a representative of the Charleroi Area Historical Society, which wanted the save old bridge and then negotiated with PennDOT on the bridge design.
“I’m glad to see they’re making progress,” said Sheppick, who photographed the steel being set in place 60 feet above the water. “It’s amazing that just a few guys can set it down like that.”
Two beams were to be set in place before the end of the work schedule Tuesday. They are 16 feet tall and 115 feet long. The steel will cantilever over the two piers, which are 450 feet apart in the water.
Fay expects to have all the steel in place by September, Vitori said.
At least one local businessman said he’s glad to see progress being made on the bridge, which has been out of operation for four years since an inspection revealed structural problems on the 105-year-old bridge that was imploded in May 2011.
“It’s starting to look like something,” said Bruce Bujanowski, whose towing company is situated under the bridge’s approach decks in North Charleroi.
“It’ll be nice when it’s down,” he said.