PennDOT laid out its plans for shutting down and repairing Veterans Bridge in Oil City next year during a public meeting Thursday that was attended by just a few people.
The project will go out to bid early next year, and construction is estimated to start in May, Steven DeLong, a project manager with JMT of Pittsburgh that is involved in the bridge repairs, said during the gathering in Oil City Council chambers.
The work is expected to wrap up in November 2023, and DeLong said “we will do the best we can to keep it to one construction season.”
During the repairs, traffic will be routed along East Front Street, across the Petroleum Street Bridge to the four lanes and then across the Center Street Bridge into the North Side of Oil City.
DeLong said work will be done on the timing of the traffic signals so traffic doesn’t bottleneck along the detour.
“I won’t promise the first week, but after about a week people seem to get used to the detour,” DeLong said.
Veterans Bridge carries about 17,000 vehicles over the Allegheny River and the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad every day, according to a handout that was provided by PennDOT.
Due to the scheduled replacement of the railroad bridge over Oil Creek next year, the pedestrian detour will also be routed across the creek at the Center Street Bridge, though that could change if the railroad changes its timeline for replacing the railroad bridge, DeLong said.
He added that the entire detour is three-fourths of a mile long.
Much of the parking by the bridge near Justus Park will be used for staging for contractors, but some parking nearby will be accessible during the entire project for businesses to use, DeLong said.
Though the bridge will be closed during the city’s Jolly July 3rd festivities, the plan is for the sidewalks to be open so people can still enjoy the fireworks, DeLong said.
A short gap in the construction work is tentatively scheduled to accommodate the city’s annual BridgeFest event, which draws big crowds to the Veterans and Center Street bridges for a two-day summer celebration.
Kay Woods of the Oil City Arts Council, who is one of the driving forces of BridgeFest, attended the meeting and was visibly happy when DeLong noted the plans to accommodate BridgeFest next year.
Repairs to Veterans Bridge
To accomplish that goal, McClelland said repairs must be made around 25 to 30 years into the bridge’s life and around year 50 to 60.
Veterans Bridge was built in 1990 and so it is due for rehabilitation, McClelland said. He explained that Venango County owns Veterans Bridge but PennDOT is helping with the repairs.
The $2 to $3 million project will be funded through the infrastructure bill that passed Congress earlier this year, McClelland said.
“It’s a big project. We want to be sensitive to the needs of the community,” McClelland said.
McClelland said Veterans Bridge is listed as being in fair condition because of the state of the deck, so if that is fixed the bridge will probably be rated as being in good condition.
The project, which includes replacing the surface of the bridge deck, will begin at the south end of the bridge and progress to the north end, Ryan Murphy, a structural engineer with JMT, said.
The expansion joints at each end of the bridge will also be replaced, Murphy added.
The lighting on Veterans Bridge will be retrofitted with LED lights, he said.
Some parts of the bridge will also get new paint but “you won’t notice it. The bridge will still be brown,” Murphy said.
The bridge will be jacked up about a quarter of an inch during part of the project so repairs to the bearings on the piers and abutments can be made, Murphy said.
None of the work will be done in the Allegheny River since there isn’t time to get the proper permits for that and since the repairs that could be done around the piers aren’t critical, Murphy said. He added that the bridge is inspected every two years.
Jill Harry, the PennDOT District 1 press officer, said a similar meeting earlier in the afternoon Thursday with public officials was well attended.
Information about the project and a comment form can be found at PennDOT’s website.
Informational boards about the project will be in City Hall for the next several weeks.
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