Center Avenue Bridge to be repaired

Photo by Nancy Whyte for The Citizen

By NANCY WHYTE

The Center Avenue Bridge in Emsworth finally will be rehabilitated, more than five years after structural deficiencies closed the span to heavy vehicles such as buses and fire trucks.

The two-year, $2.1 million project was announced last week by the Port Authority, which owns the bridge.

In May of 2010, state inspectors determined that the bridge was structurally deficient and immediately imposed a five-ton weight restriction. Port Authority bus routes were changed to avoid the bridge, and since then, neither school buses nor fire trucks, nor any vehicle over five-tons in weight, have been permitted to use the bridge, which bisects the borough.

Since that time, Mayor Dee Quinn has been in regular contact with the Port Authority in an effort to get the bridge repaired.

"At least I'll be known for something when I leave (office)," she said. "People thought I had an 'in' with the Port Authority" and would be able to get the bridge fixed. I didn't." Then she added, "I was just very persistent."

The Center Avenue Bridge is one of about 80 bridges owned by the Port Authority, and is one of about a dozen of theirs that is a highway-only bridge, meaning it is used only by buses and motor vehicles and not the Port Authority's trains or trolleys.

Senior Government Affairs and Community Relations officer Dan DeBone stated that repairing the bridge" has always been on the Port Authority's capital repair list." He said, "We were able to juggle some capital needs and move priorities. We want to move forward and renovate it to at least a 40-ton capacity load strength."

Council president Alex Nalevanko stated, "I think it's great the Port Authority is doing this. I appreciate that you've kept us on the radar."

The bridge project is likely to take about two years to complete. The estimated timeline, according to DeBone, is eight months to design the renovations, followed by four months of contractors' bidding. The actual construction is expected to take four months.

In anticipation of the re-opening of the bridge to all traffic, Emsworth Council approved a maintenance agreement that commits the borough to maintaining the road surface and sidewalk areas of the bridge, which, according to DeBone, is very similar to what the borough was doing prior to the weight restrictions.

Specifically, the agreement states, "Upon completion of the project, Emsworth will assume full responsibility for snow and ice removal and snow and ice treatment on the Emsworth Bridge at Emsworth's sole cost and expense. Emsworth will also assume full responsibility for patching and sealing non-structural cracking, pot holes and other concrete wear and tear at Emsworth's sole cost and expense."

"The Port Authority will retain full responsibility for any structural repairs and legally required inspections for the Emsworth Bridge," according to the agreement.

Council member Brian Fashian asked DeBone if, after the bridge was repaired, Port Authority buses would resume routes along Center Avenue.

"We haven't discussed that," answered DeBone.

The weight of Port Authority buses would not be a factor. "Our buses require about 17 tons" stated DeBone.

Council members Carolyn Galante and Kevin Yurkovich were not presentat the meeting.

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