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Officials preview Sawmill Run bridge project

May 18, 2011

PennDOT held a meeting for officials and the public regarding the 2013 replacement of Sawmill Run bridge on Route 36 (West Mahoning Street). The project will involve removing the bridge located in front of Rumors Tavern and replacing it with a new one, which would most likely involve a three-month detour around the construction area. (Photo by Larry McGuire)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Borough and school district officials heard PennDOT’s plans for replacing Sawmill Run bridge on Route 36 (West Mahoning Street) at a public meeting Wednesday in council chambers.

Bob Kozlenchar, Gannett & Fleming project manager for the bridge replacement, said the replacement of the bridge will not occur until the 2013 construction season.

Kozlenchar said the project will involve removing the small bridge and replacing it with a new one. It would most likely entail a detour around the construction as opposed to having phased construction, which would require 10 temporary traffic signals.

The detour would send traffic up Route 119 to Route 436 and back down to Route 36 at the Five Points intersection, Kozlenchar said. If the bridge replacement is performed with a detour instead of phased construction, it could be completed in 90 days.

Kozlenchar said if phased construction is utilized — in which the bridge is replaced one side at a time — it would take the entire construction season from February through November to replace the bridge.

The reason for requiring 10 traffic signals is because PennDOT must have a signal at every business driveway or public road inside the traffic control zone, so no vehicles become trapped and are unable to exit onto Route 36, Kozlenchar said.

Borough Manager Ben White asked why there weren’t that many signals during the Route 119 phased bridge replacement project

David J. Layman, PennDOT project manager, replied there weren’t as many traffic signals because the construction zone was not as long as the zone would be at Sawmill Run.

Layman said the traffic count for Sawmill Run is 12,326 vehicles per day that travel over the bridge.

Kozlenchar said that if phased construction would be used, it could take someone anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to travel through the work zone.

Layman said the amount of time to avoid the entire work zone with a detour is not close to a half-hour, which is based on peak hours.

If a detour is used, PennDOT can use “A plus B X bidding,” in which there are incentives added for contractors to bid on the project adding with a shorter time factor.

“So a contractor that can do it in 60 days at a higher cost may get the job versus a contractor that selects 150 days,” Layman said, adding that PennDOT has more control over the time when there’s a detour.

Layman said PennDOT often builds temporary bridges or a runaround road, such as the Big Run Arch Bridge project and Blake’s Bridge in Brookville, because there was minimal right-of-way impact.

With the Sawmill Run bridge project, there are too many businesses that would be impacted if a temporary bridge or runaround would be constructed, he said.

White said if a detour is utilized, he could see a scenario where a lot of traffic would utilize McHugh Avenue and not travel on the posted detour.

Layman said PennDOT posts detours on only state routes, not on borough or township streets.

Other bridge projects that are already scheduled for 2012 include the replacement of the bridge on Route 119 (Ridge Avenue) and the closing of the Margiotti Bridge on Route 436 for a partial beam replacement.

Layman said access to businesses is easier when the road is detoured.

“When the construction is phased, there’s more congestion because of the temporary traffic signals, which becomes a nightmare for vehicles attempting to enter or exit a business or a borough street,” he said.

Kolzenchar said Gannett & Fleming performed a detour analysis six months ago, in which it contacted the fire department, schools, borough police, ambulance and state police. No one had a problem with a detour, he said.

Layman said the fire chiefs discussed the detour and said the fire department could handle it.

PennDOT would also investigate the possibility of a temporary traffic signal at the Five Points intersection while the Sawmill Run bridge is replaced, Layman said, adding that there would be a temporary pedestrian bridge constructed while the bridge is being replaced.

Layman said while the Sawmill Run bridge is under construction, PennDOT would possibly have to close the front entrance to Rumors Tavern, which is near the bridge.

The former Star Iron Works location is listed as a historic building, so no alterations or removal may occur with the bridge construction, Layman said, adding that the plans for the side of the street where the bar is located are still being developed.

Layman said PennDOT will move ahead with project following Wednesday’s meeting.

White said the soonest that Punxsutawney Borough Council will be able to give its input into the proposed Sawmill Run bridge replacement is its June council meeting.

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