by Jonathan Weaver
Since the middle of March, the Kittanning Citizens Bridge has been reduced to one lane of traffic, causing not only headaches to residents but Kittanning Borough businesses as well.
Kittanning Borough Police Chief Bruce Mathews updated Borough Council about the bridge restoration effects during last week’s council meeting.
“Talking with the area businesses and being out in the public, the Business District is really taking a hit. Traffic, shoppers and restaurants are really feeling that,” Chief Mathews said. “I don’t know what we can do to address that, except bring it to everybody’s attention that it is having a noticeable effect.”
Council President Randy Cloak wondered if PennDOT would install a temporary traffic signal. Temporary lights were used during reconstruction of the Kiddyland Bridge along Route 28/66 in Rayburn Township during 2012.
The decision to close the bridge to incoming traffic but leave the other lane open was to permit the number of emergency services that originate or travel through Kittanning Borough.
Emergency vehicle traffic during a brush fire was able to cross the bridge successfully without incident since Chief Mathews was already downtown at the corner of Jacob and Market Streets
“It was a minor inconvenience for the motorists when the emergency vehicles were brought across (but) that did work smoothly,” Chief Mathews said. “They determined the traffic as it is now would be the lesser of the two evils because of the backup that would go in West Kittanning.”
Still, he was concerned with how the bridge project will coincide with Riverfront Park events this summer – especially if it rains and crews have to make up work during the weekend.
Councilwoman Betsy Wilt attended a PennDOT session in regards to the bridge detour and confirmed officials were concerned with possible back-ups into West Kittanning before the bridge construction began.
Councilman Ange Turco also contended that there is less traffic congestion during nighttime.
“I think more people would be willing to wait rather than driving around (via the Judge Graff Bridge and Route 28),” Turco said.
Borough Fire Marshal Earl “Buzz” Kline said PennDOT officials might also be concerned with the length of the bridge.
Chief Mathews confirmed that a traffic accident was averted recently where an intoxicated driver was confused by the construction markers.
Borough police still patrol Applewold Borough at least twice per shift, but have to come back to their home station via the Judge Graff Bridge in Manor Township unless there is an emergency call.
Council voted 6-0 in favor of Cloak sending PennDOT a letter requesting a second glance at the current traffic configuration.
The project will continue all summer. Regular two-way traffic is not expected to resume until October 3.
The $4.7 million bridge preservation project is being done by Advanced Painting System.