Closures cause difficulty for covered bridges during festival

September 18, 2013
Visitors file through the Ebenezer Bridge last year during the Covered Bridge Festival at Mingo Creek County Park in Nottingham Township. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A mundane box culvert bridges, not the more romantically-nicknamed “kissing bridge,” is closed, and because of the construction project, it will likely take Washington-area residents a tad longer to reach two of the 10 covered bridges that are the focus of this weekend’s 43rd annual Covered Bridge Festival.

Access to Mingo Creek County Park, home to the Ebenezer and Henry covered bridges, scenes of food and fun like others in Washington and Greene counties, was a topic of concern Wednesday at the Washington County commissioners’ agenda-setting meeting.

Scott Fergus, director of administration for Washington County, noted officials asked the state Department of Transportation to allow a bridge on Route 136 to remain open for the festival this weekend to ease anticipated heavy traffic.

“Normally, PennDOT would cooperate, but they’re under pressure from the businesses (on Route 136) to get that done,” Fergus told the commissioners.

“It’s there, but you can’t get to it,” mused Commissioner Harlan Shober. “That’ll be the headline tomorrow.”

Festivalgoers from Washington and points west will have to follow a detour to get to Mingo Park, but Shober showed concern that traffic tie-ups will be more daunting than usual.

Bill Kovach, assistant district executive for construction for PennDOT District 12 in Uniontown, confirmed that the detour from Washington would be the East Beau Street interchange to Interstate 70 eastbound and Route 519 Exit to Eighty Four, where motorists will again encounter Route 136.

PennDOT is replacing five bridges in Washington County. The first bridge replaced, west of Mitchell Road, east of the Springhouse farm, store and restaurant and is now open to traffic.

But Monday morning, another box culvert bridge west of the Spring House in South Strabane, which crosses over a branch of Little Chartiers Creek and is east of Davis School Road, closed, and a detour will be in place until Oct. 13.

Swank Construction Co. of New Kensington is the contractor for the $2.8 million bridge replacement project that includes Pike Run Drive in Coal Center, Hickory Ridge Road in Chartiers Township, and three bridges on Route 136.

“In the beginning of this project, we worked hard with the local community and businesses trying to earn their income during floral season and growing season,” PennDOT spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said.

“If the bridge out near Brownlee Road had been closed, there would have been more of an impact because the detour would not have been as direct” to Mingo park, Kovach said.

Other covered bridges in Washington County that are festival destinations are Brownlee, McGuffey Community Park; McClurg, Hanover Township Park; Hughes, Amwell Township; Krepps, Mt. Pleasant Township; Pine Bank, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village; and Wyit Sprowls Bridge, East Finley Township Park.

Greene County locations are in Carmichaels and White Bridge at Garards Fort.

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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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