No wider, but Sewickley Bridge will get upgrades come spring

Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 9:27 PM

The 20,000 or so commuters who travel daily across the Sewickley Bridge, connecting the borough and Moon Township over the Ohio River, should seek an alternate route next spring.

A multi-million dollar project to extend the life of the truss bridge and make it a smoother ride is in its preliminary engineering phase.

Project Manager Jason O’Neil delivered a presentation of the proposal in the Sewickley Public Library’s community room on Aug. 15.

“We realize the impact this is going to have on the driving public,” he said. “We’re treating it like an interstate job. We’re placing importance on it and try to drive the construction.”

The draft plan includes nightly single-lane restrictions for preparatory work, weekend closures, and one 10-to-14-day full closure of the bridge, weather permitting.

“Our construction schedule and what we’re going to hold the contractor to is minimum closures,” O’Neil said. “It’s extremely aggressive. When they shut down for the 10- to 14-day closure, there will likely be work on the bridge 24 hours a day at certain locations.”

Projected costs are between $7 million and $10 million. It has not gone out for bid.

A bid is expected to be awarded sometime in February or March 2020, with work to conclude in the summer.

Projects to be completed include removal of the existing bridge deck surface and replacement with a latex-modified concrete surface, replacement of bridge deck joints, bridge approach slabs and pavement improvements to the approaching roadways. Bridge bearings on the Sewickley side of the bridge also will be replaced.

“I think it’s a necessary project,” said Sewickley resident and frequent bridge traveler Jessica Belowich. “(It’s) a short-term inconvenience for a positive future.”

The project is designed to extend the life of the deck by about 20 years. The bridge was built in 1981.

Douglas Seeley, PennDOT’s assistant district executive of the design division, said the scope of work does not include widening of the lanes or any traffic-control device upgrades.

“We’re maintaining it so that it has the life that we expect out of it,” he said. “We’re not touching the signals. We’re not making any of those kind of improvements.”

Meeting attendees were given a comment form so they could express further concerns and let PennDOT know of any other nearby road issues.

Sewickley resident Michele Fedyshin was one of the 40 people who observed O’Neil’s presentation.

“I appreciate the effort that they made to notify us about the impending closures,” she said. “I think it would have been helpful to have had handouts, including maps of the detours, so that you could start planning ahead, or try out the areas with which we’re not familiar so we can get familiar with the detours.

“What would be optimal would be to replace the bridge because it’s too small. I imagine that would cost many times more than the repair work. It might be cost prohibitive, but I would love to see them widen it,” Fedyshin said. “I get they got so much width to work with and they can’t put wings on it.”

Proposed detours will increase driving time between 14 to 16 minutes in both directions.

People who want to get across to Sewickley would travel down Route 51 to the Coraopolis Bridge, then onto Grand Avenue and across the Nevile Island Bridge. Travelers leaving the borough would go across the Nevile Island Bridge and onto Coraopolis Road.

Coraopolis resident Rachel Kenyon said the construction would not impact her much if it could be done by early summer. She said she usually only crosses the bridge into Sewickley so her two children can participate in Sewickley Valley YMCA’s summer camp.

“During the summer, I do it four times a day,” she said. “When you’re sitting on top of the bridge, you can feel the whole thing bouncing up and down when a truck comes by … It will be a smoother traffic nightmare (when the project’s complete), but it will still be a traffic nightmare. As it is right now, you’re going so slow that you can swerve around the potholes.”

Signs will be posted on both sides of the bridge closer to the project start date.

Another public meeting about the project may take place once a contractor has been selected.