The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 27, 2014

Causeway work to begin

Set for Monday; Closings planned only certain nights

CLARK, PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — If grades were given for paying close attention at a meeting, Barb Shelleby would receive an A+.

Then again, she had a good reason for attentiveness.

As secretary for RC’s Marina in Clark, anything involving the bridge stretching across Shenango Lake on Route 18 would impact the boat and docking business. With a $3.9 million major overhaul of the bridge set to begin Monday, this is a big deal for the marina.   

Shelleby was among a dozen or so who attended a PennDOT overview of the construction project at the Army Corps of Engineers office at Shenango Lake. The Army Corps oversees the lake and the surrounding park.

Best news of the meeting was the bridge – better known as the causeway – would not close on the crucial July 4 holiday weekend. With the Fourth of July falling on a Friday this year, boaters, swimmers and outdoor enthusiasts are expected to mob the lake for the extended weekend.

“We made a commitment to the (Army) Corps and we’ll stick to that,’’ said Steven Reed, project manager for Mekis Construction Corp., main contractor for the project.  

So far, marina customers haven’t blinked an eye at the project, Shelleby said.

“We haven’t gotten any phone calls about it,’’ she said. “People are coming in and paying their dock deposits.’’  

An average of 10,657 vehicles a day motor over the causeway. But everyone acknowledges that average jumps during the primetime recreation season from mid-May to mid-September – the same time when construction will be in full swing.

In addition to being the gateway to Shenango Lake, the causeway is a vital artery on the western side of Mercer County that links the Shenango Valley to its brethren in Reynolds, Greenville, Jamestown and other communities to the north.

For that reason PennDOT paid close attention to such details as when and how long the causeway would be closed along with lane restrictions. At its worst, plans call for the bridge to be closed only at night for a total of 16 nights this spring and summer. None of the closings will be on weekends.

With hefty steel beams needing removal and then installed on the project, closing the bridge was a matter of safety, Reed said.

Emergency services such as ambulance, police and fire departments have been notified about the closings to prepare. Detours for the closings will be Route 518 to Route 846.

During most of the construction traffic will be limited to two lanes, with one lane going south and one north. Traffic will begin merging near Tara, A Country Inn, along Route 18 on the south side of the bridge while on the north side traffic merging will be just past West Lake Road.

Construction work on the bridge will be between 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. There’s only a slight chance any work will be conducted on weekends, said Reggie Jannetti, PennDOT project engineer said.

“When there’s work at night there’s going to be lots of bright lights there,’’ Jannetti said.

As for boaters, a dozen buoys will be in the water near the causeway along with signs cautioning about construction ahead. A no-wake zone will be enforced around the bridge. Further, construction crews will have at least one manned boat in the water when needed to warn or halt boaters during serious work – such as when beams are installed or removed.

If a boater is halted from going under the causeway it should be for only 15 to 30 minutes.   

“There will always be a passageway under the structure as long as it’s safe,’’ Reed said.

No adjustments to the water level at the lake will be needed for the project, said John Kolodziejski, resource manager for the Army Corps at the lake. Others keeping tabs on the project include the state Fish and Game Commission, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which handles mainly boating issues.

As for the marina, Shelleby said it’s full speed ahead.

“The docks opened this past Monday and we’re in full swing next week,’’ she said.

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