WEST MIDDLESEX – A planning error on the Main Street viaduct project has forced PennDOT to tear up and replace sidewalks and curbs completed only five months ago.
Contractors began work this week to remove sidewalks and curbs near the viaduct, where most construction was completed in November. The new construction will install curb ramps to bring the sidewalks into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, said PennDOT spokeswoman Jill Harry.
Harry said the original construction plans given to Mekis Construction Co., main contractor for the $6.432 million viaduct project, didn’t contain designs for Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible sidewalks and ramps.
Questions to Mekis, based in Fenelton, Pa., were referred to PennDOT.
Harry didn’t immediately know what the additional costs will be for the curb replacements. She said PennDOT officials would have an estimated figure as work progresses.
State transportation agency officials also don’t know who is paying for the project, although Harry said the borough is not responsible.
“We have some figuring out there,’’ she said. “We do have to determine who is responsible to pay those costs.’’
Harry said PennDOT hired an outside firm to create the original construction plans. She said she didn’t immediately have the name of the design company.
“I can’t say for sure if it will be their responsibility or if it is ours, or if this could be a shared responsibility,’’ Harry said, referring to the design company.
But she said PennDOT takes the ADA law seriously. The federal regulation, passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, such as employment, transportation and public accommodations.
The law also includes regulations on construction of new sidewalks and curbs in municipalities. For example, sidewalks must meet slope requirements.
“We are very aware of the importance to have ADA sidewalks and curbs,’’ Harry said.
During construction, a new ADA standard came into play for a business district, she said. And that is the standard now being constructed in West Middlesex.
“This is a new process so we aren’t sure what the cost might be,’’ Harry said.
Bob Lark, president of West Middlesex Council, addressed the situation Tuesday at the council meeting.
“Someone obviously messed up,’’ he said.
The federal government paid for 80 percent of the viaduct project, with the state responsible for the remaining 20 percent.
“West Middlesex has no financial responsibility for this,’’ Lark said.
Harry confirmed Lark’s assessment.
“This was part of a PennDOT project,” she said. “The financial responsibility will fall to us or the consultant who helped us design the project.”
Ron Dubrasky, owner of the Golden Bear tavern on Main Street in West Middlesex, is among the businesses getting a sidewalk upgrade.
“We always wanted to do something like this,’’ Dubrasky said. “We have a lot of elderly people who come here.’’
But he also said the business took a major hit during construction of the viaduct, which lasted more than a year in 2017 and 2018. During the project, the Golden Bear’s customers had to use a side door to go in and out of the business.
The front door was blocked off and Dubrasky said that probably dissuaded customers from stopping in.
“Our business went down 85 to 90 percent,’’ Dubrasky said. “We’re just starting to get that business back.’’
The viaduct, which carries Main Street over the Shenango River, was opened to traffic in November, with additional landscaping and other work planned for this spring.
West Middlesex will hold second grand opening — the borough held a celebration last year when the bridge was opened to traffic — on the weekend of July 12-14.