Center Avenue Bridge reopening delayed in Ross

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The Center Avenue Bridge in Ross, which closed for repairs just before Easter, will not open again until just before Christmas.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the bridge, whose formal name is the Levi Bird Duff Bridge, was scheduled to reopen next Thursday, but more repairs were needed than originally anticipated. The new date for the reopening is Dec. 20.

That is not good news to motorists and Port Authority buses that have been forced to detour or for businesses such as the Townsend Sweet Shoppe in West View, which is cut off from its customers to the south.

"It's hurt us," said owner June Weletz, who called the project "the bane of my existence."

The shop, in a small plaza on Center Avenue near the bridge, relies heavily on walk-in traffic, which is now nonexistent, she said.

When the contractor first put up a warning sign on Center noting that the bridge was closed 1,000 feet ahead, Ms. Weletz had another sign made, noting that the plaza was open so customers would know they could access her store. West View officials gave her permission to erect the sign, she said.

"I do have my loyal customers, thank the Lord. They will go out of their way to find me," she said. "But, by the time they get here, they're a little perturbed."

Ms. Weletz said she only opened for a few days during the summer.

"There was no point to it," she said. "Summer is usually slow to begin with."

The project began March 1 on the 30-year-old, two-lane bridge, which crosses Interstate 279. The work involves more than 2,600 cubic feet of repair to the concrete piers, hydro-demolition of the concrete deck, and replacing that with a new latex overlay. The fence and sidewalk also are being replaced, Ms. Downs said.

Mosites Construction is the contractor for the $3 million project to repair the bridge, which is owned by Allegheny County.

With the bridge not reopening until December, Ms. Weletz is worried because she usually sells an average of 50 to 60 pies -- "homemade, from scratch" -- for Thanksgiving.

"I'm really worried about Thanksgiving," she said. "I'm worried that people aren't going to want to go out of their way" to get to the shop.

In the meantime, she is still making cookies, apple butter, tomato butter and other sweets for the customers that can get to the store.

"You have to keep moving on."

The detour is Route 19, Highland Avenue, Gass Road, Union Avenue, North Starr Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, North Balph Avenue and Bellevue Road. The Port Authority's Route 13 Bellevue bus route is following Bellevue Road.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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