Monday, April 5, 2010
The Donora-Webster Bridge faces a shortened lifespan
By Scott Beveridge
WEBSTER, Pa. – It appears the historic Donora-Webster Bridge will disappear without a battle cry to preserve the span over the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Donora Historical Society will not spearhead efforts to save the 103-year bridge as its board members have much bigger problems to confront. They want to keep a low profile because a house was destroyed in the collapse of the historical society’s former headquarters during a heavy snowfall last month, damages that likely will be resolved in an ugly lawsuit.
So the bridge negotiations with the state Department of Transportation will be left up to the state Historical and Museum Commission, which was unable over the past six months to save the nearby and similarly-built Charleroi-Monessen Bridge from demolition.
Both spans were closed to traffic last year after inspections revealed structural problems. PennDOT must consult with the PHMC on the bridges’ fates because both are listed on the National Register of Historical Places because they were pinned together in a style borrowed from the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Construction of the new, $30 million Charleroi-Monessen Bridge is set to begin later this year, and its history will be remembered on interpretive signs on both sides of the new span. The panels should include photographs of former Pennsylvania Gov. John K. Tener, who once lived in Charleroi and pushed for that bridge, as well as photographs of Monessen steelworkers whose cars once created the bulk of the local traffic.
About 10 miles to the north in the sleepy village of Webster, some of its residents don’t miss the traffic their bridge created, especially the steady stream of drive-by drug deals that since have been detoured away from the church parking lots.
Despite the peace, state Sen. J. Barry Stout is supporting a plan to build a new Donora-Webster Bridge once PennDOT obtains historical clearances to demolish the existing one and he finds the construction money. The metallurgical properties of the steel supporting the bridge are shot, he said.
“I know how important that bridge is to the Mon Valley,” Stout, D-Eighty Four, said today to a reporter at the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.
UPDATE: The PHMC said Tuesday it had little to say about the bridge negotiations with PennDOT at this point, other than the meetings are expected to begin soon, and that it was under the impression PennDOT would preserve the span.