Canton Township fire Chief Dave Gump explained Thursday afternoon to state and Washington County officials that since the Caldwell Avenue bridge closed more than six years ago, it has taken longer for his department to get a fire truck out of the station on Weirich Avenue at Caldwell.
“We have lights that come on when a call comes in and stays on for four minutes,” Gump said. “When the lights go out, we are supposed to roll even if there is only two people on the truck. But since that bridge has been out, it takes us six or seven minutes to get out.”
Next spring the problem will become even worse, leading Canton fire and township representatives to hold the meeting Thursday with State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, county leaders and state Department of Transportation representatives to discuss the issue.
Not only will be Caldwell bridge still be closed but an alternate route will be unavailable for six months starting March 1. The bridge that takes Sheffield Street over Interstate 70 at the Jessop Place exit is scheduled to be demolished and replaced.
“It is a big concern for them,” Solobay said, in asking PennDOT to consider delaying work on Sheffield until the Caldwell bridge is replaced. “Half of their firefighters live on the other side and have to take the detour.”
Another hitch in the plans to replace Caldwell is a requirement that environmental clearances be obtained to make sure there is no contamination. The bridge is adjacent to the former Molycorp site, now owned by Chevron Mining. Remedial work at the site was recently completed. Although the bridge is owned by the county, the construction is being done through PennDOT. The environmental clearances are required for all projects, said PennDOT’s Josh Zakovitch.
Gump said that during the remedial work, core samplings were taken from all over the area including the site where the new fire station is located. Vincent Ley, county engineer, said that information may be available through Chevron.
“Is there a way to get this bridge moving?” questioned Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober. “How fast can we make it happen. Frustrations are getting pretty high.”
Delaying the project at Jessop is not an option, PennDOT’s Rachel Duda told Solobay.
“That project has already been let,” Duda explained. “It still start in March and be done in one construction season.”
Any information about the bridge area obtained from Chevron will be forwarded to PennDOT to see if the clearance can be waived. The bridge design is already complete.
“Try and get this on the fast track so maybe the bridge can open in April or May so they only have a few months of a long detour,” Shober said.