The driver of a black pickup truck showed a little hesitancy Friday morning as he approached the Juniata Eighth Street bridge. Just minutes before his arrival, construction workers removed "Bridge Closed" signs that have blocked access for two months.
"You're the first one," PennDOT District 9 Executive Tom Prestash shouted, as the driver continued.
Since June 11, the bridge over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks linking the Juniata and Greenwood areas has been closed for repairs, forcing motorists to use a 31/2-mile detour. The project has been on an accelerated schedule to minimize impact to nearby property owners and to finish by Monday's deadline.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Chief Bridge Engineer Brian Wiser (left), Joe Keller (right), the President of Keller Engineers Inc., and Thomas A. Pretash, P.E. District Executive Engineering District 9-0 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, walk the bridge deck on the Juniata Eighth Street Bridge before Friday’s re-opening.
"We had lots of good help, lots of coordination and quick resolutions," said Doug Vidic, construction manager for contractor Francis J. Palo of Clarion.
PennDOT coordinated the repair project on behalf of Blair County, the bridge owner, and called it the best option. Deterioration of the 30-year-old structure would have led to weight restrictions and replacement, which Prestash estimated at $14 million.
State and federal highway dollars covered the $2 million project cost, which included $1.55 million for construction. The repairs, designed by Keller Engineers, included the removal of the bridge's bituminous surfaced so it could be replaced with reinforced concrete. Joints holding the bridge together were replaced or reinforced.
Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti led a ribbon-cutting ceremony with those involved in the project, local officials and Thompson Pharmacy founder William D. Thompson, representing the Juniata business community.
Thompson said the pharmacy lost "a little bit" of business during the closing.
"But we think it will mean more business in the future," Thompson said.
Altoona Mayor William Schirf, who lives in Juniata, said he heard few complaints.
"I think the people understood, and I think the businesses understood," Schirf said.
Peterman's Florist owner Andrea Hammel was not at the ceremony but she said was happy to hear that the bridge was open. Like Thompson, she thought she lost a little business.
"For the most part, the time flew by," she said.
Funeral Director Bob Mauk of Mauk & Yates Funeral Home said he, too, welcomed the opening of the bridge and the added improvement. The project follows last year's streetscape project, which limited access to and closed Fourth Avenue, the main route through Juniata, while contractors worked on street, sidewalk and curbing improvements.
"The bridge closing was an inconvenience," Mauk said. "But in comparison to the seven months for last year's project, this was a piece of cake."
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.