Bridge closing to detour truck traffic

February 27, 2013
Detour signs are in place but temporarily covered at the Chestnut Street exit of Interstate 70 in North Franklin Township. The signs will direct traffic back onto the interstate to get off the Jefferson Avenue exit to Route 18 north. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

When the Sheffield Street bridge over Interstate 70 at the Jessop Place exit in Canton Township closes to traffic Monday, westbound truck drivers who want to end up on Jefferson Avenue will be facing a two-mile detour. The Sheffield bridge will be closed as the contractor for the state Department of Transportation starts work on the $1.7 million project to demolish and replace the deteriorating span.

Since September 2009, trucks going westbound have been banned from getting off the highway at the Jefferson Avenue exit and were instead diverted to the Jessop Place exit. Truckers would make a left onto Sheffield, go across the highway and then enter the interstate eastbound so they could get off on Jefferson. Westbound trucks were prevented from getting off at Jefferson because of problems with traffic backing up on the highway.

During the duration of the construction work, expected to last through Nov. 1, truck drivers will be detoured to the West Chestnut Street exit. Truckers will turn right off the exit onto West Chestnut (Route 40), then get into the left lane to turn back onto the interstate at Washington Crown Center. Westbound drivers who wanted to get off at Jessop Place and go to Washington’s West End also will use the detour.

North Franklin Township police Chief Rich Horner predicts that traffic will be “a mess.”

Horner said he expects more crashes like one about 9 a.m. Wednesday at the ramp from I-70 westbound to eastbound West Chestnut Street.

A tanker driven by Cory N. Beck, 35, of Sykesville, had stopped at the stop sign and had started to pull out when he saw an eastbound Jeep driven by Rhonda Lee McFall, 37, of 194 Bench Ave., Canton Township. He stopped his truck on the berm.

A pickup truck driven by Wesley Jack Camp, 43, of Joshua, Texas, who also was getting off the highway, swung to the left around the stopped tanker. His truck hit McFall’s vehicle and knocked it into the tanker’s gasoline tank.

Crews from Weavertown Environmental responded to clean the leaking fuel. Also assisting were North Franklin and Canton firefighters. McFall was taken to Washington Hospital for treatment.

“It is going to be interesting,” Horner said. “I expect we’ll be having more accidents. We get a lot of fender-benders from vehicles getting off the highway both eastbound and westbound because drivers assume there is a yield sign instead of a stop sign.”

Horner said he was unaware that the exit was going to be used as a detour until the covered traffic signs were placed earlier this week.

Washington police Capt. Robert Wilson was told by PennDOT that the closure shouldn’t affect traffic in the city in the area of Wylie and Jefferson avenues.

Wilson acknowledged the possibility that some truck drivers will get off at Jessop and make a right, heading down to Weirich and West Wylie avenues.

“If we run into problems, we’ll contact PennDOT,” Wilson said.

At 8 p.m. Monday, crews from Golden Triangle construction will start to remove the asphalt overlay on the bridge surface. Drivers on the highway will encounter intermittent nighttime restriction from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. through 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 Jessop Place.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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