Canton Township volunteer firefighters are going to have to resort to Plan C when it comes to answering calls on the southern side of Interstate 70.
Already facing a detour for the last six years after the bridge on Caldwell Avenue was closed and demolished, firefighters will soon encounter another roadblock when the Sheffield Street bridge over the highway is torn down for repairs.
The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that work to demolish the bridge will begin March 5 as crews start to remove the asphalt overlay. Drivers on I-70 at the Jessop Place exit will encounter intermittent nighttime restrictions, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., between then and March 9.
From March 11 through March 16, traffic will be detoured each night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. so the bridge can be demolished. Traffic will be detoured using the on- and off-ramps at the Jessop Place exit.
Sheffield Street traffic will be detoured onto the highway. Westbound traffic will be directed to the West Chestnut Street exit and then back onto the interstate going east. Eastbound traffic will be sent to the Jefferson Avenue exit and then back, taking Jefferson to East Wylie Avenue and back onto the interstate.
“Anytime there is a confirmed structure fire now, we call in the Washington and North Franklin Township firefighters, so that is already in place,” said Canton fire Chief Dave Gump. “But with the bridges out, they will be on the scene of a fire on the West End before we are. We will get there as fast as we can.”
Gump predicts even more traffic tie-ups on Jefferson as rerouted traffic, particularly truck traffic, gets off the highway.
“We are just going to have to deal with it,” the chief said.
Work to replace the Caldwell bridge will not begin until the required environmental clearances are obtained to make sure there is no contamination, said Larry Maggi, chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The bridge is adjacent to the former Molycorp site, now owned by Chevron Mining.
“We are pushing all we can to get the clearances,” Maggi said.
The bridge was built in 1960, said Valerie Petersen, PennDOT spokeswoman. The new bridge will have two 24-foot-wide lanes with 8-foot shoulders on either side.
The contractor for the $1.7 million project is Golden Triangle Construction of Imperial. Work is expected to be done Nov. 1.