By the mid-nineteenth century, the city of Butler had become a booming hot spot for a plethora of industries. Most notably was the iron industry, but other economic ventures included brickworks, tanneries, woolen mills, potteries and breweries.
In the early 1900s, the increased amount of development south of Butler had created a suburb, which necessitated a bridge over the Connoquenessing Creek so that residents could easily travel to work and shopping districts.
In 1914, the city received bids for construction of the Wayne Street Bridge. Two contracts were accepted for the concrete and superstructure work, with a total price tag of $123,232.11. The bridge catered to the size of early twentieth-century vehicles and provided lamp-lit walkways for pedestrians. The ornamental balustrade boasted wrought iron spindles.
Almost a century later, Butler is building a new bridge with a considerably larger budget. The $9.5 million replacement will temporarily stand parallel to its Wilson-era counterpart, which has become structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The contract was awarded to Mekis Construction, Fennelton, Pa.
The new structure will carry two lanes of SR 356 traffic (one northbound and one southbound) over the Connoquenessing Creek, the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad. The bridge will connect Wayne Street to the north and the intersection of Center Avenue (SR 356) and Fairview Avenue to the south.
In keeping with the tradition of its predecessor, the new bridge will provide sidewalks on both sides, with vintage-style lighting. The designs, produced by Michael Baker Jr. Incorporated, also call for the use of form liners on piers and abutments so the finished product resembles the masonry.
Construction began on August 18, 2008 and will be complete by June 2010. Larry Traister, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) project manager, said that the project is currently ahead of schedule and the bridge may be open by the winter of 2009.
“Mekis is building three-quarters of the new bridge before closing the old one in June,” Traister explained. “Once closed, the contractor will have approximately four and half months to complete the new bridge and have it open for traffic.” In the meantime, local traffic will be rerouted through Butler and tractor trailers will use SR 356, SR 228 and SR 8 to navigate around the bridge construction.
Mekis will be using approximately 2,500 cu. yds. (1,911 cu m) of concrete and 2,000 tons (1,814 t) of asphalt on the project.
“The beams we are using are concrete box and concrete I-beams. There will be a total of about 400 feet of pre-stressed concrete box beams and about 2,900 feet of concrete I-beams,” said Traister. For the five-span bridge, spans one through four will use AASHTO-I beams and the fifth span will use box beams. All beams were supplied by Top Rock, Erie, Pa.
Mekis rented two cranes – a 500-ton and a 550-ton — from All Erection & Crane Rental of West Elizabeth, Pa., to place spans two and three due to the load and radius requirements. Howard Concrete Pumping Co. Inc. of Cuddy, Pa., supplied a 45-meter concrete pump truck for use in placing the concrete in the deck.
Supplementary equipment used by Mekis includes a Komatsu 300 excavator, a 150-ton P&H truck crane, a 120-ton Link-Belt crawler crane, rubber tire John Deere backhoes and a Grove 50-ton hydraulic crane.
In addition to the bridge itself, there is a 700-ft. (213 m) stretch of approach and side street work to be completed on each side of the bridge. This work will include new signals at both ends, provided by Bronder Technical Services, Pittsburgh.
Protection Services Inc., East Pittsburgh, Pa., has been subcontracted for highway safety in the work zone; JC Lee Construction & Supply, Petrolia, Pa., is responsible for inlets; and IA Construction Corp., Zelienople, Pa., is providing paving services.
The only small hurdle faced by crews was negotiating the new drainage around existing utility lines. Allegheny Power and Embarq representatives were present during excavation to help prevent any damage to the lines.
More information about the Wayne Street Bridge (also called the Wayne Street Viaduct) can be found at www.waynestreetviaduct.com. The Michael Baker-run site provides detour details, project schedule and project photos. CEG