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Wilmerding Prepares for Upcoming Bridge Closure

Span over Turtle Creek links East McKeesport, Monroeville

By T.J. Martin
The Tube City Almanac
July 10, 2024
Posted in: Wilmerding News

(T.J. Martin photo for Tube City Almanac)

Allegheny County will renovate a bridge which connects the northern and southern portions of Wilmerding beginning in 2026 and will fully close the bridge for an estimated one year beginning in 2027.

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

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

When last inspected on April 30, 2024, the bridge’s deck and substructure received a rating of 5 on a 0-9 scale using standards established by the Federal Highway Administration. That rating is considered fair, while a rating of 4 is less is considered poor.

During a recent livestreamed presentation regarding the project, Mike Burdelsky, Assistant Deputy Director of the Allegheny County Department of Public Works, said, “This project is really meant to prevent the bridge from deteriorating to that point. ... It is going to be a pretty substantial rehabilitation, but we’re trying to take care of all of the different parts of the bridge that need fixed before they get any worse.”

In addition to replacing the bridge deck, which is the portion of the bridge which is driven on, the proposed two-year project calls for replacement of the sidewalk, barriers separating the sidewalk from the bridge deck, the sidewalk protective fence and pedestrian hand railings. It also calls for the the replacement of bridge drainage and expansion dams and expansion bearings. The traffic signals will be replaced and bridge lighting will be updated.

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

Repairs will be made to the bridge’s concrete sub-structure and its structural steel members and the steel members will be sandblasted and painted.

The proposed project is estimated to begin during the spring of 2026. It is during the replacement of the bridge deck that the closure of the bridge will take place beginning in 2017.

“One of the big drivers of this (project) is the deterioration of the deck,” Burdelsky said. “Typically, we see about a 50-year lifespan on a bridge deck and this one, we’d gotten about 15 years out of it before we started seeing deterioration and areas that needed repaired.

“That one-year closure is really critical to the project. It’s necessary because the bridge deck needs replaced in its entirety. During the last rehabilitation (in 1999), we did try and keep one lane of traffic open in each direction, that creates a lot of vibration next to the concrete as it cures and that led to a lot of the deterioration that we’re seeing now,” he said.

“The full closure is so that we can remove the full concrete deck and replace it without having traffic next to it,” Burdelsky said. “We believe one of the biggest contributors to the early deterioration of the current deck is because of the vibrations caused by traffic next to the curing concrete when it was built so we’re trying to do everything we can to limit that so that we don’t have these issues, we’re not back here again having to replace the bridge deck again in 20 years, that we’ll have a good, long-lasting product.”

One feature of the bridge that won’t be replaced is the concrete barriers now separating the two directions of traffic.

“Given some of the things that play into determining whether a center barrier is appropriate or not, it was determined that it is actually not required by current standards so that is why we were able to eliminate it,” Burdelsky said. Separating the two directions of traffic on the bridge “will be a double yellow line, the same as the roadway leading up to it.”

Pedestrians will also be barred from using the bridge during the full closure. The presentation said that the county’s project team is working with Pittsburgh Regional Transit to provide a free shuttle service to the nearest available bus stops for those who now use PRT bus stops in the southern portion of Wilmerding that will be closed during the full closure and pedestrians will also be able to use the free shuttles to reach the other side of the bridge.

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

Originally published July 10, 2024.

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