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$1.8M Grant OK’d for Versailles Ave. Span

Mayor: State funds announced today are ‘a good start’

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
March 26, 2024
Posted in: Announcements

(Tube City Almanac file photo)

State and city officials are cheering the announcement Tuesday that $1.8 million in economic development funding has been allocated toward the replacement of the Versailles Avenue Bridge.

The two-lane span, which crosses Ravine Street, has been closed to all traffic since February 2022, when an inspection found that the bridge had become unsafe.

In a joint announcement, state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Matt Gergely said that a state multimodal transportation grant has been awarded to the city for a new bridge.

The grant was approved Tuesday during a meeting in Harrisburg of the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an independent agency of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community & Economic Development, the legislators said.

“I am happy to see the state investing in local projects, especially this long-awaited bridge replacement,” Brewster said. “The Versailles Avenue Bridge is a lifeline for our local communities so this funding will improve transportation while revitalizing our infrastructure.”

Last year, McKeesport received $500,000 from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission for planning and engineering work, and another $300,000 from the state’s Local Share Account, funded by gambling revenues.

City officials said the cost of replacing the bridge has been estimated at $10 million.

“It is a good start, but it is still just a start,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said Tuesday night. “Every step of this process is extremely important.”

According to PennDOT traffic estimates, more than 4,000 vehicles per day used the bridge before its closure. Built in the early 1970s, the nearly 300-foot-long bridge connects the Library district neighborhoods, including Twin Rivers Elementary School, McKeesport Little Theater and several churches with Evans Avenue and UPMC McKeesport hospital.

Residents have been forced to use a lengthy detour since the closure.

“A lot of residents up there are pedestrians who have to access public transportation,” Cherepko said. “This is a significant inconvenience for their daily lives. You’re taking a five-minute walk and turning it into a 45-minute to an hour walk. I don’t want anyone to think we don’t realize that.”

Gergely said that he and Brewster, who are both McKeesport residents, have made “securing the funding to replace this bridge a top priority.”

“This is a much-needed project, and I am looking forward to seeing these funds invested in the Mon Valley,” Gergely said.

Cherepko said that “even though it may seem slow,” the city is working as rapidly as it can to raise the money from local, county, state and federal sources to replace the bridge.

“Obviously, this $1.8 million is going to help take the project further,” he said.

City officials have explored the possibility of reopening the bridge for pedestrian traffic only. A spokesperson last night said permission to reopen the bridge for pedestrians has not been received.

Originally published March 26, 2024.

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