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Wilmerding prepares for upcoming bridge closure

Wilmerding prepares for upcoming bridge closure

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The Turtle Creek Span connects East McKeesport, Monroeville

By TJ Martin
Tube City Almanac
July 10, 2024
Posted in: Wilmerding News

(Photo by TJ Martin for Tube City Almanac)

Allegheny County will begin renovations to the bridge connecting north and south Wilmerding in 2026, and starting in 2027, the bridge will be completely closed for an estimated year.

The Patton Street Bridge rehabilitation project is planned by the Allegheny County Department of Public Works with funding from the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

The 426-foot-long, four-lane bridge carries an average of 8,720 vehicles per day over Turtle Creek, the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, Wall Avenue and Avenue U. The four-span steel girder bridge was built in 1971 and was last renovated in 1999.

During its last inspection on April 30, 2024, the bridge deck and substructure received a rating of 5 on a scale of 0-9 according to standards set by the Federal Highway Administration. This rating is considered fair, while a rating of 4 is lower and is considered poor.

During a recent livestream about the project, Mike Burdelsky, deputy assistant director of the Allegheny County Department of Public Works, said, “This project is designed to prevent the bridge from deteriorating to that extent. … It’s going to be a pretty major renovation, but we’re trying to address all the different parts of the bridge that need repair before it gets any worse.”

In addition to replacing the bridge deck, which is the part of the bridge you drive on, the proposed two-year project includes replacing the sidewalk, the barriers separating the sidewalk from the bridge deck, the sidewalk safety fence and the pedestrian railings. It also includes replacing the bridge drainage, expansion dams and expansion bearings. The traffic lights will be replaced and the bridge lighting will be updated.

New concrete access slabs will be constructed and ADA-compliant curb ramps will be installed.

The concrete elements of the bridge substructure will be repaired, as well as its steel structural elements, which will be sandblasted and painted.

The proposed project is estimated to begin in spring 2026. Closure of the bridge will occur during deck replacement, beginning in 2017.

“One of the main drivers for this (project) is the deterioration of the deck,” Burdelsky said. “We typically see a bridge deck have a lifespan of about 50 years, and this one was about 15 years old before we started seeing deterioration and areas that needed repair.

“This one-year closure is really critical to the project. It’s necessary because the entire bridge deck needs to be replaced. When it was last renovated (in 1999), we tried to keep one lane open in each direction, which causes a lot of vibration next to the concrete as it cures and has led to the significant deterioration we’re seeing now,” he said.

“The total closure is to allow us to remove the entire concrete deck and replace it without having traffic next to it,” Burdelsky said. “We believe that one of the biggest contributors to the early deterioration of the current deck is the vibration from traffic next to the curing concrete when it was built, so we’re trying to do everything we can to mitigate that so that we don’t have these issues, we don’t come back here to replace the bridge deck in 20 years, so we have a good, durable product.”

One element of the bridge that will not be replaced is the concrete barriers separating the two directions of traffic.

“Based on some of the factors that go into determining whether or not a median barrier is appropriate, it was determined that it was not actually required by current standards, so we were able to eliminate it,” Burdelsky said. The two directions of traffic on the bridge “will be separated by a double yellow line, the same as the road leading up to it.”

Pedestrians also will not be able to use the bridge during the total closure. The presentation said the county’s project team is working with Pittsburgh Regional Transit to provide free shuttles to the nearest available bus stops for those currently using PRT bus stops in south Wilmerding, which will be closed during the total closure, and pedestrians will also be able to use free shuttles to reach the other side of the bridge.

TJ Martin is a freelance writer based in Trafford whose work has also appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Irwin Standard Observer.

Originally published on July 10, 2024

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