The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 26, 2012

Napoleon Street bridge is set to reopen

Kathy Mellott

JOHNSTOWN — Good news for drivers looking for an easy link between downtown Johnstown and Kernville.

The new Edward A. Silk Memorial Bridge on Napoleon Street will be open for traffic Thursday or Friday, ending tedious detours and allowing War Memorial patrons to return to former parking habits.

“We are looking to open the bridge to traffic by the end of this week,” Brad Brumbaugh, PennDOT’s District 9 assistant executive for engineering, said Monday.

The bridge, on state Route 403, was built in 1924. In recent years, it carried an estimated 10,000 vehicles a day. The bridge was classified as structurally deficient several years ago, prompting plans for replacement.

Work on the $4.2 million replacement bridge, announced in 2009, got under way in the spring. The project forced the closing of the nearly 90-year-old reinforced cement arch bridge, sending traffic on a detour following Market, Washington, Clinton-Bedford streets and Haynes Street.

Efforts to replace the 230-foot span with a bridge of similar appearance were a priority for PennDOT bridge designers, Brumbaugh said.

The effort pleases local history buff Anthony Gergley.

PennDOT has assured Brumbaugh that when completed, the new bridge will have a “similar appearance and appropriate vintage style lampposts,” Gergley said in an email to The Tribune-Democrat.

Gergley’s fundraising efforts launched several years ago are credited with having period lighting installed on spans throughout the Johnstown area.

While PennDOT designed a steel girder bridge replacing the cement arch span, the goal was to replicate the historic structure as much as possible, Brumbaugh said.

“It’s not a replica, but it’s close to the look,” he said.

Gergley said he is pleased with the banister giving the span an arched appearance and looks forward to seeing the vintage style fixtures similar to what has already been installed on the Minersville bridge.

While the motorway of the bridge is completed enough to allow traffic, crews will still be working on the span’s wing walls and river walls into December, Brumbaugh said.

Some sidewalk work still is not complete, he said.

Along with the new bridge, the project includes upgrades to the drainage system, roadway approaches, traffic signals, lighting and sidewalks.

The contractor, Swank Construction Co. LLC of New Kensington, will return in the spring to apply a final wearing course on the deck surface and an epoxy coating, Brumbaugh said.