A new technique expected to speed up the reconstruction of an aging bridge on Route 136 near Eighty Four has local businesses and commuters hoping for fewer headaches throughout the process.
The state Department of Transportation plans to spend about $3 million to demolish the 72-year-old span over Little Chartiers Creek and build a new one just west of Route 519, beginning in June 2016 and ending about four months later.
That’s an aggressive timeline, but one PennDOT District 12 Portfolio Manager Bill Beaumariage said will be made possible by expanding construction hours, offering incentives to the contractor and using precast parts before bringing them to the site.
“We’re doing everything we can do to expedite it,” Beaumariage said.
That was good news for Sam Minor, owner of The Springhouse, who was concerned about the length of construction and whether it would put a major crimp on his business. Still, he was worried about losing potential customers with many of the 9,000 cars that pass by on an average day forced to take a detour.
“It won’t put us at ease, but certainly (PennDOT engineers) realize the large sum of money we’ll lose,” Minor said. “We’ll work hard to maintain.”
The impending closure of Route 136 reminded him of similar detours when three smaller spans were rebuilt near the other bridge over the past two years.
“We know the loss of business we had that time, which was a total of three months,” Minor said. “But, fortunately, we did continue to have a reasonable amount of customers, and they did return over a period of time.”
Beaumariage said PennDOT hoped to have one lane open during construction, but the new 206-foot bridge’s proximity to the intersection with Route 519 made that impossible. He added PennDOT officials plan to meet with the affected business owners next spring to ensure there are adequate detours and proper signs for nearby stores during construction.
North Strabane fire Chief Mark Grimm said his department already is preparing for the closure and expects mutual aid between the township and South Strabane firefighters will keep nearby residents safe.
That section of Route 136 is split evenly between the two townships, so Grimm expects both departments will be able to work well together to serve both communities.
“We’ll be working with South Strabane a little more to make sure we can keep up the response times,” Grimm said.
A detour will take drivers from Beau Street onto Interstate 70 to the Glyde/Eighty Four exit that connects with Route 519.
Construction is expected to be completed by mid-October 2016.