2009-05-23 / Front Page

Surprise bridge closing stuns Keating Township residents

The 118 year old bridge in Keating Summit was closed indefinitely by the Pa. Dept. of Transportation two weeks ago, without warning. Township officials hope PennDOT will reopen it with lower weight restrictions. Photo by Janice Baker The 118 year old bridge in Keating Summit was closed indefinitely by the Pa. Dept. of Transportation two weeks ago, without warning. Township officials hope PennDOT will reopen it with lower weight restrictions. Photo by Janice Baker Concerns about the Bush Hill Road bridge in Keating Summit have resulted in the structure being closed to all traffic.

The bridge was closed Friday, May 8, without warning, according to several residents, many of whom arrived home that Friday evening to find they had to take a different route to get to their houses.

Keating Township officials are urging that the bridge, which was built in 1891 and crosses the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks on Township Route 305, be reopened with a lower weight posting.

According to Arthur Moate, township roadmaster and a member of the Keating Township Board of Supervisors, the bridge was assigned a "Priority 0" posting after being inspected for the Pa. Dept. of Transportation by representatives of AECOM.

"From what I understand, that's a pretty bad rating," Moate told Endeavor News. "They're worried about the structural integrity."

When a similar concern arose two years ago, he said, township officials met with PennDOT, the Pa. Public Utility Commission and representatives of Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns the bridge. As a result of that meeting, the bridge remained open with a lower weight limit.

Moate suggested at the time that a railroad crossing, with automatic gates and lights, be installed to the north of the bridge, a less expensive option than replacing the structure.

"The township doesn't own the bridge, it's just responsible for the top surface," he noted.

While the structure doesn't handle a large volume of traffic, its closure creates a hardship for the residents of the west side, who must now travel an extra five miles over rough road to cross the tracks. Of even greater concern to those residents is the added emergency response time.

Austin responders are no longer the closest emergency services. Port Allegany is.

Moate has asked for another meeting between the parties in an attempt to resolve the situation, hoping that the bridge can be reopened with a six- or seven-ton weight limit which would allow an ambulance to cross.

"Hopefully we'll come up with something," Moate said. "Last time it didn't take too long."

For the township, he added, bridge replacement would be cost-prohibitive.

"A crossing would be the cheapest option," Moate noted.

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