For years, Canton Township fire Chief Dave Gump has cringed when the “B” word is spoken.
Just mention bridge, and Gump groans. First it was the Caldwell Avenue bridge just a stone’s throw from the main fire station on Weirich Avenue, which has been closed since June 2006. Then it was the bridge that took Sheffield Street over Interstate 70 at Jessop Place that closed and was demolished earlier this month. Work to replace it is expected to be done in November.
Now a bridge that takes busy Route 844 (Jefferson Avenue) over a small creek between Smiley and Rex roads in the township will close starting Monday.
Earlier this year, word came of plans to replace not only the Route 844 bridge with a box culvert but a similar structure on Route 50 near County Park Road in Cross Creek Township. Work on the Cross Creek bridge will begin when the Route 844 work is done. The projects are each scheduled to take about eight weeks to complete.
The posted detour by the state Department of Transportation for both projects uses Routes 50, 18, 844 and 231. Based on a Google map, the posted detour is just under 20 miles.
Gump expects that many drivers will find a way around that detour using local roads like Smiley and Hewitt Avenue.
“I am sure those roads will see increased traffic,” Gump said. “Route 844 is pretty busy. And I am sure it is just an amount of time before those trucks going to gas wells figure out about the local roads.”
Gump said answering calls on the western side of the bridge will take longer for his department.
“Not only is it taking longer for most of us to get to the fire station because of the closed bridges, it is also going to take us longer to get to any calls on the other side of the closed bridge on 844,” Gump said. “We’ll have to go out Hewitt and Smiley.
“Now instead of four or five minutes for us to get there, it will be 10 or 12 minutes,” he added. “And we got a good amount of crashes on 844.”
But if there is a small silver lining, Gump recently received word from the office of state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, that there is finally some movement on replacing the Caldwell bridge.
Solobay said he understands Gump’s frustration over the Caldwell bridge.
“At times, it seemed like the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing,” Solobay said. “There were environmental issues to deal with, but enough is enough.”
The project is expected to go out for bid in April. Solobay hopes the project will be let soon after the bids are opened and work can get started by summer.
When the bridge on Route 50 is closed, Gump is expecting even more traffic on Route 844.
Solobay said the two bridges are part of PennDOT pilot projects.
“They picked similar areas and are putting in stock bridges that speed up the process,” Solobay said. “With so many deficient bridges, we are fortunate to get these replaced.”
Work on both bridges is being done by C.H.& D. Enterprises of New Stanton.