SHARPSVILLE — There’s more to the Kelly Road Bridge project than merely replacing a 120-year-old span.
“It will be able to carry two lanes of traffic, and there will also be a pedestrian sidewalk on the upstream side,” said project manager Chris Vollmer. “When the trestle bridge goes down, they’ll put up a temporary bridge for people to use during construction.”
The bridge spans the Shenango River between Sharpsville and Hermitage and is the only road access to about a dozen homes, offices for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Shenango River Lake and the Mahaney Access Boat Ramp on the bridge’s Hermitage end.
To show both public officials and local residents what the Kelly Road Bridge’s replacement may look like, a meeting was held in the Sharpsville Borough building Wednesday evening. Representatives from PennDOT and Gannett-Fleming were available to answer questions for residents or officials.
The Kelly Road Bridge was originally built in 1897 for horses and buggies, and was closed to traffic in 2005. Later in 1966, a newer bridge was built alongside it, though the new bridge was never officially named.
The newer bridge can allow only one lane of traffic at a time, and has a weight limit of 30 tons. Though modern vehicles are safe to cross the bridge, there is a concern for heavier vehicles such as fire trucks which can only access homes on the Hermitage side by crossing the bridge.
“I think they responded very positively,” Borough Manager Ken Roberts said of the public officials’ meeting. “We’ve been waiting a very long time for the bridge to be replaced.”
Even though the bridge will be gone, it won’t be forgotten. About 17 feet from each of the bridge’s entrances will be taken and used to create a much shorter bridge nearby, where the borough is planning to build a riverside park. This allows a modern and safer bridge to be installed, while the historical value of the Kelly Road Bridge will be preserved, Rod Alexander, of Sharpsville, said.
“I’d give them an A-plus,” he said. “Everybody’s happy, and the historical society’s happy.”
Alexander served as the historical consultant for the bridge replacement project, since the Kelly Road Bridge was possibly the last trestle bridge in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Stones from the piers will be used in the riverside park, which will feature a sign detailing the bridge’s history.
Rod’s sister and fellow Sharpsville resident Laurel Alexander also was pleased with the decision to save sections of the bridge for future Sharpsville residents, even if the bridge couldn’t remain in the same place.
“I’m excited about rescuing the bridge. I love old architecture like old buildings and bridges, and I love the trestle design,” Laurel said.
After presentation of the plans, PennDOT will seek environmental clearance for the project and complete the replacement bridge’s design. The project will go out for bids in 2019, with construction expected to take about two years, said Brian McNulty, assistant district executive of design for the transportation agency.
“I think the meeting went well. There was no controversy. It seemed like a lot of the questions people had were about the timeline,” McNulty said.
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