Bridge travelers' woes start anew

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For the second year, the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge is involved in a long-term closure during a $16.6 million rehabilitation project that has had negative impacts on businesses and inconveniences for residents on both sides of the bridge.

The shutdown of the bridge, which crosses the Ohio River, started March 4 and will continue, around the clock through mid-November.

Though it appears that no local businesses closed when the bridge shut down last year at this time, the impact is severe, said Jenifer Watkins, director of the Ambridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

Some businesses are privately reporting that they lost as much as 40 percent of their customers last year when the bridge closed for nearly nine months, Ms. Watkins said. "People get into patterns" and shop elsewhere to avoid a long detour "and sometimes it's hard to get them back."

While the long detour can heavily affect restaurants and other businesses that depend on walk-in trade, effects are felt in other ways.

"I do have some walk-in business [and] it hurts us on deliveries quite a bit," said Karrie Hlista, owner of Heritage Flower Shop at 663 Merchant St. in Ambridge. "We deliver all over, especially for funerals. Now we have to drive to Monaca to get to Aliquippa."

Ms. Hlista has been reluctant to add the cost of gasoline to the price of her flowers.

Owner Mike Palmer of Economy Electric Supply, also on Merchant Street, said the bridge project "definitely has an effect. We deal with a lot of industrial and commercial" clients, many of them "on the other side of the river. They don't want to drive to Monaca or Sewickley.

Shortly before the bridge closed on March 4 "a couple of people said 'see you when the bridge opens,' " Mr. Palmer said.

The 85-year-old bridge links Route 65 in Ambridge with Route 51 on the Aliquippa side. Rehab work on the 10-span structure includes deck and sidewalk replacement, concrete spall repair, steel repair and replacement, painting and pavement patching.

The project is expected to be completed late this year.

The prime contractor is Trumbull Corp. of Pittsburgh.

About 12,588 vehicles use the bridge on an average day, according to PennDOT. Signs are posted to guide motorists through the detour.

The posted detour directs drivers to the heavily traveled Sewickley Bridge, about 11 miles away. Many motorists instead detour to the East Rochester-Monaca Bridge.

Here's the PennDOT detour from Ambridge:

• 11th Street to Duss Avenue (Route 989)

• Turn right onto Duss Avenue and follow to Eighth Street.

• Turn right onto Eighth Street and continue to Route 65 (Ohio River Boulevard).

• Take Route 65 south to the Sewickley Bridge in Allegheny County.

• Cross the bridge and turn right onto north Route 51 and follow through Moon, Crescent and South Heights to Aliquippa.

neigh_west

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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