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McKeesport officials are hoping that the replacement of the Versailles Avenue Viaduct can be expedited with help and funding from the state Department of Transportation.
Council this month authorized PennDOT to act on the city’s behalf to perform the necessary work begin the process of replacing the nearly 300-foot-long bridge, which was closed to all traffic in February 2022 after an inspection determined it was no longer safe.
City council also have asked PennDOT for $3 million in funding toward the project from the state’s Multimodal Transportation Fund.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the city is hopeful that funding from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and the federal government will help make up the remainder of the cost, estimated at approximately $10 million.
“We were able to secure $500,000 to begin preliminary engineering work, and we received another $300,000 in (state Local Share Account) money,” he said. “Once we have the preliminary engineering money in place, we’re hoping it starts to spiral. Rather than sitting back and waiting, we’re trying to get the ball rolling now.”
The bridge is an important connector serving the Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Twin Rivers Elementary-Middle School, McKeesport Little Theater and other destinations in the Sixth Ward.
In 2016, about 4,148 vehicles used the bridge per day, according to PennDOT statistics.
Unlike most of the other bridges in McKeesport, the Versailles Avenue span is owned by the city, not the county or state.
Residents of the Sixth Ward have been urging the mayor and council to take swift action to replace the bridge, which was closed following the collapse of a similar structure, the Fern Hollow Bridge, in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park.
“At the end of the day it may take multiple sources of money,” Cherepko said. “We’re not leaving any stones unturned in terms of trying to secure the money.”
Cherepko said city officials also are working to determine whether or not pedestrian traffic can resume using the bridge. The official detour for cars uses Coursin Street, Fifth Avenue and Evans Street.
“If you’re in a vehicle the detour may take only four or five minutes, but if you’re a pedestrian, it’s a major ordeal,” Cherepko said.
Originally published September 26, 2023.