Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Makeover for a Bridge National Historical Landmark to Get Penndot Help

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Makeover for a Bridge National Historical Landmark to Get Penndot Help

Article excerpt

Besides its location on the Monongahela River, Brownsville in Fayette County is known for another, though smaller waterway, which flows through the heart of town.

Dunlap Creek, which empties into the Mon near the town center, has witnessed the construction of four different bridges at the same location along present-day Market Street, the town's main thoroughfare.

When the last of the bridges was completed in 1839 at a cost of $39,811.63, the cast iron structure with an arch that spans 80 feet made history by being the first all-metal bridge in the United States. The bridge was first used in July 1838 and has been in continuous use ever since.

PennDOT is currently planning a bridge preservation project, tentatively costing $3.7 million, an amount that Gary Ferrari, project manager at the PennDOT District 12 office in Uniontown, calls "a ballpark figure."

Because the project involves an historic structure, PennDOT will have to work with a lot more agencies than usual, Mr. Ferrari said. "They include organizations such as the American Engineering Society, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the National Park Service."

The pre-engineering phase will begin in 2015. After PennDOT selects the engineering firm, contractors selected to do the preservation work will have to go through the bidding process. To be considered, contractors must have previous experience with historic structures.

"It's exciting to work on a bridge of this historic significance," said Valerie Petersen, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 12, which encompasses Fayette, Washington, Greene and Westmoreland counties.

"Once we're done with the engineering study to see just what has to be done, we'll have a better grasp as to the final design work, the completion date and the overall cost of the project," Mr. Ferrari said.

Over the past five years, District 12 has been involved in other historic landmark projects, which include the Donora-Webster Bridge, the Point Marion Bridge and two wooden, covered bridges in Greene County.

Cathy McCollom, director of the River Town Program from Confluence, calls the Dunlap Creek Bridge "singularly unique. …

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