By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
CLARK, PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
PennDOT quickly allayed any fears of the local transportation community when word spread Friday morning that major repairs are scheduled for the Route 18 bridge over Shenango River Lake in 2014.
Stretching 426 feet from Clark to Pymatuning Township, the span, better known as the causeway, is a vital link for local commuters and businesses. A prolonged shutdown would create a lengthy detour for commuters – and potentially add big transportation costs for businesses, said Nate Clark, a Hempfield Township industrial and freight transportation consultant.
Fear not, PennDOT said Friday afternoon. The four-lane bridge will remain open during construction with traffic reduced to one lane in each direction.
Built in 1966, the bridge underwent reconstruction work in 1980. More recently, the bridge has been classified as structurally deficient which calls for the deck to be replaced, said James Carroll, a PennDOT spokesman. The piers and abutment will not have to be replaced, allowing for the bridge to remain open during construction.
The causeway is a crucial inter-county link between the Shenango Valley and the Greenville-Jamestown area. An average 5,343 vehicles use the bridge daily, according to PennDOT.
Commuters between the two sections of the county enjoy the bridge for its quick access. But for many businesses it means a substantial savings in transportation costs.
Closing the causeway would mean detouring traffic onto state routes 58 and 258 to the east and state routes 846 and 518 to the west, Clark noted.
“You’re talking about lengthy detours,’’ Clark said. “And parts of Route 58 and Route 258 would have a real tough time absorbing the truck traffic because of weight restrictions.’’
Not only could such detours add to fuel costs, he noted, but to labor and equipment costs as well.
“If you have a business regularly running three round-trip deliveries a day between Hermitage and Greenville, those detours might mean they could only do two a day with the same truck and driver,’’ Clark said.
Details, such as the cost of the project, weren’t immediately available. However, PennDOT plans call for bridge repairs to be “half-width.’’ In other words, the contractor would close half the bridge for rehabilitation and traffic will be carried on the other half. That would restrict traffic to one lane each way, but would eliminate the need for a detour, Carroll said.
PennDOT will hold a public meeting giving details of the project at 6 p.m. July 10 in the South Pymatuning Township Municipal Building, 3483 Tamarack Drive.