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SHARON Bridge blast will be out of sight



Published: Tue, June 5, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The public will be kept at least 1,000 feet away and won't be able to see the bridge fall.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- If you're planning on coming to town June 23 to witness the implosion of the Oakland Avenue viaduct -- don't bother.

You won't be able to see it.

The public will be kept 1,000 feet from the blast site and no one will be allowed closer than that in any direction, said Mark Miller, Mercer County bridge engineer.

His advice to the public is to avoid the area.

The 65-year-old bridge carrying Oakland Avenue over Pine Run and the Shenango Valley Freeway is on a bend in the valley, and because of the high number of trees lining the hillsides in that area, no one will be able to see the bridge drop 60 feet onto the freeway, unless they happen to be atop the nearby Sharon Regional Health System building, Miller said.

That's going to be a big disappointment for a lot of people, according to Mayor Robert T. Price, who said he expects at least 1,000 people to show up to watch the implosion.

The city has had a lot of calls from people who want to witness the event and has also been selling tickets at $1 each for the right to push the button that brings the bridge down. Thousands have been sold so far, with proceeds to go to the Mercer County Unit of the American Cancer Society.

Miller said that plan is still in place but he doesn't know where the blast crew will be located.

Stopping traffic: The freeway will be closed several days before the implosion.

It will be shut down at 6 p.m. June 20 from Stambaugh Avenue to Sharpsville Avenue with westbound traffic detoured north on Stambaugh Avenue, west on East State Street and south on Sharpsville Avenue. Eastbound traffic will follow the detour in reverse.

Closing the freeway three days before the implosion will give the demolition contractor time to build a 6-foot earthen "cushion" beneath the bridge to protect the road and the bridge carrying the freeway over Pine Run from the falling concrete.

It will also allow time to drill additional holes in which explosives will be placed to bring down the viaduct.

A total of 350 holes are required.

Precautions: The concrete arch rings will be wrapped with a special material and chain link fence to control flying concrete and the columns will be wrapped too, Miller said.

The implosion is scheduled to take place the morning of June 23, but weather could delay that, he said, noting any threat of an electrical storm would result in a postponement.

Two lanes of the freeway will be reopened June 25, giving the contractor time to clean up debris, and all four lanes should be open by July 2, Miller said.

The freeway will be closed again for several days at a later date when steel erection for the new bridge is scheduled.

The county owns the bridge but is tapping federal and state grants to cover the $3.56 million cost of demolition and replacement.

Part of the 312-foot bridge is already down. A 40-foot north-end span has been removed using conventional demolition methods, but the main span will come down in the implosion.




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