NORTH CHARLEROI – As construction nears completion on a new Charleroi-Monessen Bridge, a span that has been out of commission for more than four years, the state Department of Transportation has slightly moved up its reopening date.
The new $26 million bridge over the Monongahela River will open June 29, about five days ahead of schedule, to a huge celebration being planned by municipalities on both sides of the Mon, said PennDOT spokeswoman Valerie Petersen.
“Hopefully we’re going to have one heck of a party,” said North Charleroi Councilman Joe Villella.
Construction of a new bridge has met with one delay after another since PennDOT closed the former century-old span because of structural problems on its deck and later hired a contractor to implode the steel span.
It took nearly a year for PennDOT to reach a consensus with the state Historical and Museum Commission on replacing the old bridge under federal preservation laws because it was protected under the National Register of Historic Places program.
It took longer than expected for utility companies to remove cables from the old span. And, steady minor flooding on the Monongahela River during the winter of 2011-2012 caused repeated problems with construction of the piers. The contractor, Joseph B. Faye of Tarentum, also needed to replace a newer pier on land after an inspection determined it had flaws.
As a result, some area businesses have suffered, especially those places that attract destination shoppers, said Debra Keefer, executive director of Mon Valley Regional Chamber in Charleroi.
She said people shop elsewhere when they are faced with driving detours. At the same time, she said, the detour has caused heavy traffic delays in parts of the borough.
“We are elated, elated,” she said of PennDOT’s setting a bridge reopening date.
Monessen officials will meet March 6 with those in North Charleroi to begin planning for the celebration, said John Harhai, city administrator in Monessen.
“We’re going to have a good event,” Harhai said. “Business has been down on both sides of the river. Hopefully things will pick back up.”