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Bridge Closed in McKeesport, Pa., After Inspection Reveals Deterioration

Wed February 16, 2022 - Northeast Edition
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The city of McKeesport, Pa., just south of Pittsburgh, closed the Versailles Avenue Bridge on Feb. 10 after an emergency inspection led to concerns about the structure's deterioration.

Mayor Michael Cherepko said the immediate closure of the bridge over a portion of the city's Sixth Ward was necessary after a structural engineering firm examined the span and suggested the stretch of road be shut down within 10 days, the Post-Gazette reported.

"We received notification Thursday evening [Feb. 10] that we should be working to close this bridge within 10 days," Cherepko said in a letter to his community and posted on social media. "It is in the best interest of the safety of our residents that we are proactive in closing this bridge immediately rather than waiting for any time at all."

The McKeesport bridge closure comes just two weeks after the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh, and at a time when a greater spotlight has been placed on the region's dated infrastructure.

Following the McKeesport bridge inspection, Cherepko said the town quickly contacted STV, a nationally recognized structural engineering firm based in Douglassville, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), about the freeze-and-thaw the area has experienced this winter, and the toll it has taken on local infrastructure.

"One day our temperatures are in the teens, and the next, they're in the 50s," Cherepko told the Post-Gazette. "There's a potential impact there that we aren't willing to risk."

The Pittsburgh newspaper reported that STV inspected the Versailles Avenue Bridge in October and recommended McKeesport reduce traffic to one lane, advice the city followed. A follow-up inspection was scheduled for April because of the deteriorating conditions on one side of the bridge.

But the city moved the inspection to earlier because of the weather-related concerns, and STV recommended that the bridge should be closed.

Concrete barriers were placed at both ends of the bridge Feb. 11, and "bridge closed" and "detour" signs went up three days later.

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