Descendants of Pa. governor’s family to attend Charleroi bridge opening

Descendants of Pa. governor to attend Charleroi bridge opening

June 17, 2013
Pennsylvania Gov. John K. Tener of Charleroi, a former professional baseball player, throws out the first pitch at a baseball game in 1914 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y. - National Library of Congress photo

NORTH CHARLEROI – Descendants of early 20th century Pennsylvania Gov. John Kinley Tener’s family will attend the opening this month of a bridge that will bear his name in his former hometown of Charleroi.

The Tener family will be part of a large celebration hosted by municipalities on both ends of the new, $26 million Charleroi-Monessen Bridge, which has been plagued with construction delays over the past four years, said Valerie Petersen, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

“Everybody down here is really excited about this,” said North Charleroi Mayor Lee Hall, adding local residents have been waiting a long time for the bridge to open.

The new span over the Monongahela River replaces one built in 1906 in the same location of Routes 88 and 906. The old bridge was imploded in July 2011 after structural problems rendered it unsafe and too costly to repair.

As many as eight members of the Tener family from across the country are expected to attend the ribbon-cutting, said Nikki Sheppick, chairman of Charleroi Area Historical Society.

“They are very proud of ‘Uncle John,’” Sheppick said “He’s the only governor, from what I understand, from the Mon Valley.”

Tener was a professional baseball player and settled in Charleroi, where he worked in the glass industry and became a local banker and investor in transportation. He served as governor from 1911 to 1915 and also was an officer of the corporation that built the old bridge.

PennDOT and the state Historical and Museum Commission agreed the Tener family must be invited to the bridge reopening during negotiations on how the old bridge would be documented as it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Sheppick said.

The contractor for the new bridge missed the November completion schedule for a number of reasons, including steady high water on the Mon one winter and delays in removing utility lines from the old bridge. The company then had to unexpectedly replace two newer piers below the approach decks, said Len Kubitza, a PennDOT assistant construction manager.

“It’s like any project. It had its challenges,” Kubitza said Monday. “No one is to blame.”

He said crews are working overtime to meet the bridge opening of 11 a.m. June 29.

Some work on the span will need to be completed after that date, which will require periodic single-lane restrictions until it’s complete, Kubitza said.

The bridge celebration committee will meet Wednesday to confirm the event program, Hall said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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