Tearing it down and starting again isn't an option.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- Mark Miller, bridge engineer for Mercer County, said the debate over the safety of the new Oakland Avenue Viaduct should be resolved within the next month.
The county halted work on the 300-foot span over the Shenango Valley Freeway (U.S. Route 62) in early December after learning that the steel frame was out of alignment by as much as 3 inches, causing the bridge to have a slight "S" shape.
Carmen Paliotta Contracting of Library, Pa., hired to tear down the old concrete bridge and replace it with a steel and concrete span, was ready to pour the concrete bridge deck when the problem was found.
Miller said the county and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation want to know how the misalignment will affect the bridge's long-term structural integrity.
There's no fear that the first truck to roll across the bridge would cause it to collapse, Miller said.
The county wants assurances that the misalignment won't cause undue wear and tear on the structure and end its useful life prematurely.
The county, PennDOT and Paliotta have been arguing over engineering studies on the bridge ever since, and Miller said a final analysis on the structure isn't complete.
The bridge, a $3.6 million project funded with state and federal grants, was to be finished Nov. 30, 2001, but the contractor was granted a 28-day extension because of material shipment delays.
The countdown of those additional days hasn't started yet because of the investigation into the bridge's structural integrity, Miller said.
Tearing down the new structure and starting again isn't an option at this point, he said. If the long-term life of the bridge is jeopardized by the misalignment, it will be up to the contractor to come up with an acceptable plan to remedy that situation, he said.
Meanwhile, city officials said they have had mixed reactions from the public regarding the delay.
Some who live near the span have indicated they don't care if it ever reopens because there has been a drastic reduction in traffic through their Oakland Avenue neighborhood and they see that as a good thing.
Others who used it regularly as a north-south route through the city are impatient to get the new bridge open, officials said.