State requires more study of Canton bridge site

November 15, 2012
Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Canton Township fire Chief Dave Gump walks near the bridge on Caldwell Avenue at Werich Avenue that has been closed for six years in this file photo. The closure has forced the fire company to detour around the bridge.

The state Department of Transportation is requiring additional testing of the former Molycorp site in Canton Township before work can proceed on replacing the Caldwell Avenue bridge over Chartiers Creek.

Washington County commissioners on Thursday approved an additional payment of $12,648 to SAI Consultant Engineers Inc. for environmental documentation, 80 percent of which will be paid by state taxpayers. The remainder will be paid using Washington County liquid fuels funds.

Lisa Cessna, Washington County Planning Commission director, thought all design requirements for the bridge replacement project had been completed, but she said, “PennDOT changed its mind, so it is costing more and it is delaying the project. We have a covenant in place. If they encounter anything, Chevron is to take care of the material.”

Asked when a new bridge may be built, Cessna speculated that bids for the project might be solicited by summer, but she cautioned, “We don’t know if this is the last step we are going to go through, or if there is going to be something else. PennDOT is letting the contract, so we are entirely beholden to them.”

Chevron Corp. acquired the former molybdenum roasting plant, which produced an additive to strengthen steel, several years ago after it closed in 2001. Caldwell Avenue, including the county-owned bridge, was closed in 2006 between Green Street and Weirich Avenue so that remedial work to remove radioactive waste from the site could take place. That work has been completed and the site was released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The project site will be monitored for thorium, a low-level by-product of molybdenum extraction.

Since then Canton firefighters have had to take a detour to get from their station to homes and businesses in the West End. With a bridge that carries Sheffield Street over Interstate 70 at Jessop Place expected to be demolished in March for a replacement project, fire officials are concerned about additional detours if the new Caldwell Avenue bridge is not built by then.

The cost of building the new bridge will be borne by state taxpayers. The new total for design will be $233,135 for a project that has been on the books since 1995.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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