Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge reopening delayed

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The long-awaited Nov. 16 reopening of the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge has been pushed back at least two weeks to late November or early December, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Weather conditions have delayed completion of the project, said PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan. "An extremely wet spring caused some delays with painting."

The delay could not have come at a worse time, and municipal officials and business owners did not see it coming.

An event called Christmas on Merchant in Ambridge -- formerly known as Light Up Night -- is Nov. 23, said Jenifer Watkins, director of the Ambridge Area Chamber of Commerce. It's the start of the Christmas shopping season "and we had hoped the bridge would be open."

Yuletide celebrations in Sewickley run Nov. 30 through Dec. 22.

In February, PennDOT notified officials and issued news releases saying the second year of a $16.6 million rehabilitation project would require closing the bridge from March 4 through mid-November. The bridge was closed during the same time period in 2012.

Officials in Ambridge and Sewickley said Tuesday that state transportation officials had not yet told them about the reopening delay.

Mr. Cowan talked about the delay Monday in an interview.

The 85-year-old bridge crosses the Ohio River, linking Route 65 in Ambridge with Route 51 in Aliquippa.

About 12,588 vehicles use the bridge on an average day, according to PennDOT.

Rehab work on the 10-span structure involves deck and sidewalk replacement, concrete spall repair, steel repair and replacement, painting and pavement patching.

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.

In the Ambridge business and shopping district, some owners have reported a 30-40 percent drop in business when the bridge has been closed, Ms. Watkins said.

In Sewickley, traffic has been much heavier because of the detours, and that's especially troubling with emergency vehicles traveling to and from the hospital, said Sewickley manager Kevin Flannery.

Christmas on Merchant in Ambridge is noon to 9 p.m. Nov. 23. The celebration includes vendors, food trucks and horse-drawn carriage rides.

A parade to welcome Santa starts at 6:30 p.m. at 11th and Merchant streets and ends at the P. J. Caul Park.

Holiday celebrations start Wednesday in Sewickley with a Wine Walk.

Then Yuletide in Sewickley in the business and shopping district runs Nov. 30-Dec. 22.

Light Up Night, including entertainment, is 6 p.m. Dec. 6. Festivities include food, entertainment, free parking and free carriage rides.

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


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