a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An old bridge's final days are here

The old Albert Gallatin Memorial Bridge connecting Greene and Fayette counties at Point Marion, Pa., will soon become history after ribbon-cutting ceremonies are held Thursday for its nearby replacement. Local fire trucks will be the first vehicles to cross the new $21 million Point Marion Bridge after the ribbon is cut at 10 a.m.

The following is a story published earlier this year in the Observer-Reporter about the construction project:

By Scott Beveridge

DILLINER – An ironworker skirts across the top of a truss supporting the new Point Marion Bridge without flinching.

A waist-belt tied to a cable line is the only thing that would save him from certain death, should he lose his balance 116 feet above the Monongahela River.

"You can almost dance a jig up there," said Darin Glitz, project manager of the bridge that is being built in a century-old design style.

"It doesn't look like it, but there is a lot of room up there," he said Thursday while ironworkers tightened bolts that hold together the hunched Parker truss bridge.

When completed in November, this $21 million span will connect Dilliner in Greene County and Point Marion in Fayette County, and replace the nearby rickety, aging Albert Gallatin Memorial Bridge.

The state Department of Transportation turned to this style of bridge because it won't interfere with navigation on the Mon.

Modern concrete box-style bridges have most of their support beams under the pavement, and that type of span would have been too close to the water during high flows, Glitz said. To build that type of bridge, PennDOT would have needed to raise the ground level in Point Marion.

"There would have been major changes in the road level in the downtown," Glitz said.

The old bridge built in 1929 had grown weak and needed to be supported by 67 new steel beams under its deck to keep it open while its replacement is under construction.

The new bridge will be supported by members of steel above the road, a style also known as a through-truss. These bridges require much more steel at a greater cost.

When the span opens to traffic Nov. 13, it will be 750 feet long and consist of 3.1 million pounds of steel made in Delaware. The steel was fabricated by American Bridge Co. in Ambridge before it was shipped by barge to the construction site after the work began in January 2008. When finished, it will be painted robin's egg blue.

"It's a tried-and-true design, but it may be one of the last we ever see," Glitz said. "These old-school trusses could hold columns of tanks. I've been doing this for 12 years and never built a truss and never expected to."

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