PennDOT sign moved away from memorial after brouhaha

A PennDOT sign announcing a temporary bridge closure in Oil City drew criticism this week because of its proximity to a veterans memorial area near the Petroleum Street bridge. The sign was moved away from in front of the memorial by Thursday. (By Judith O. Etzel)

The erection of a sign on an upcoming bridge project in Oil City was the subject of a brief but heated objection Wednesday from a local Air Force veteran.

The brouhaha also quickly caught the attention of PennDOT that erected the sign, and the state agency responded without delay.

A large orange-colored “bridge to be closed” sign was set up at the corner of the Petroleum Street bridge this week. Brightly colored orange sand bags anchored the bottom of the sign that relates to the closing of the bridge next week for repairs.

The location of the temporary sign is in a corner set aside as a memorial to residents killed in military conflicts. The bags were placed directly in front of the Vietnam War memorial.

“That’s a desecration – that sign and those bags should not be at the memorial, especially stuck in front of a monument to the men we lost in Vietnam,” said Fred Weaver, a veteran.

Weaver said he contacted city Mayor Bill Moon and state Rep. Lee James’ office to direct PennDOT, which erected the sign, to move it elsewhere at the bridge entrance. A few other passersby, too, shared their concerns about the placement of the sign.

On Wednesday, Jill Harry, press officer for the PennDOT district office in Oil City, responded to the complaint.

“Once we heard about the concern, we went over and assessed the location but, unfortunately, it’s a tough one there because of the road and the permanent signage,” said Harry. “We understand some people are upset so we are doing our best to pull the sign away from the memorial as far as possible.”

The location is compromised, though, because of the need to keep a narrow pedestrian walkway accessible, existing highway signs and more, she said.

The bridge work sign will be “quite temporary,” said Harry and will be completely removed when the work is completed by mid-week next week.

By Thursday, PennDOT crews had moved the sign away from the front of the monuments and nearer to the bridge walkway.