18 Washington County bridges to be rehabbed this year and next

August 25, 2013

While state transportation funding has stalled in the Legislature, a situation that will result in many reductions in weight restrictions on state and local bridges, Washington County motorists will be seeing rehabilitation of 18 bridges through a federally funded pilot program.

Two construction firms, Donegal Construction, which has offices in Washington and Greensburg, was awarded a contract with PennDOT for $2.283 million, and R.L. Johnson Construction Corp. of Kittanning, Armstrong County, with a contract for $1.987 million, will each be issued notices to proceed Sept. 3, said Valerie Petersen, spokeswoman for PennDOT District 12 in Uniontown.

Most county bridge projects require county taxpayers to contribute 20 percent of the cost, but this is not the case in Washington, Blair and Luzerne counties that are part of the pilot project. The Washington County commissioners in December approved the temporary transfer of all responsibility for construction to PennDOT due to the special allocation until the project is completed in 2014.

PennDOT divided the projects into two groups of nine bridges that are similarly constructed to do the work at the lowest possible prices, Petersen said.

While the commissioners labeled the program “Commonwealth Performance of County-Owned Multi-Bridge Projects,” Steve Chizmar, spokesman for PennDOT in Harrisburg, referred to it as “bridge bundling.”

Peterson was unable to predict when work would be done on each bridge, saying, “You can’t work on all of them at the same time.”

PennDOT would like to see this type of project used across the state, but Petersen said the critical component of rehabbing groups of bridges is a sustained funding source.

Washington County is responsible for 117 bridges, including several covered bridges. No covered bridges are included among the 18 to be rehabilitated.

Here is a list of the bridges to be rehabilitated by Donegal:

Glass Hill over Miller’s Run, Cecil Township; Indian Camp and Cummins bridges over Sugar Camp Run, Independence Township;

Myers School Bridge over Daniels Run/Ten Mile Creek, Nichols and Dague bridges over Pigeon Creek, North Bethlehem Township; Vanceville Bridge over Pigeon Creek, Somerset Township; Zediker and Clokely Station bridges over Little Chartiers Creek and Chartiers Creek, respectively, South Strabane Township.

Here is a list of bridges to be rehabilitated by R.L. Johnson:

Condit and Miller’s Run bridges over Ten Mile Creek, Amwell Township; Smith Bridge over Buffalo Creek, Buffalo Township; McCullough Bridge over King’s Creek, Hanover Township; Wylandville Bridge over Chartiers Creek, North Strabane Township; Dunbar Bridge over Raccoon Creek, Robinson Township; Cherry Valley Bridge over Raccoon Creek, Smith Township; and Crossroads and Manan bridges over Ten Mile Creek, South Franklin Township.

Several of them have been restricted to a 3-ton weight limit, about the weight of the typical pickup truck.

One bridge that had been initially listed as part of the pilot project was removed, Shady Avenue Bridge over Raccoon Creek, Burgettstown, at an estimated construction cost of $423,000 plus the cost of inspection.

Petersen said the bridge in Burgettstown likely differed enough from others, excluding it from the “bundle” in this round of rehabilitation.

Lowering weight limits “is happening at a fever pitch at a hyper-pace right now,” said Joseph Szczur, executive of PennDOT District 12 in Uniontown. “In our neck of the woods, we have 49 state bridges in the four counties,” including Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, where fire trucks, school buses and tractor-trailers will be bearing the brunt of detours because they are much heavier than a passenger car or pickup truck, which fall into the 1 1/2- to 3-ton category. Ambulances weigh about 5 tons.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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