Pa. bridge closure chokes ambulance traffic

The EMS director for the New Kensington Bureau of Fire-Ambulance said ambulances could see a delay of up to 40 minutes due to the bridge closure and detours


Brian C. Rittmeyer
The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — The closure of the Tarentum Bridge has made things difficult for ambulances trying to get patients from the New Kensington side of the bridge to Allegheny Valley Hospital.

Emergency traffic has had to follow detours like all other vehicles, said Addie Birch, emergency medical services director with the New Kensington Bureau of Fire-Ambulance.

The New Kensington Bridge, part of the posted detour route, has seen heavy traffic.

"You can have a 40-minute or greater delay sitting in traffic trying to go from New Kensington to Allegheny Valley," Birch said. "You can have lights and sirens but if there's already two lanes of traffic on the 9th Street bridge, there's not enough room for my ambulance to get through."

The lanes from Tarentum to New Kensington reopened on Sunday, which Birch said has made things easier for his ambulances getting back from the hospital. While they were closed, he said some used the Freeport Bridge to get back instead.

But, according to PennDOT spokeswoman Yasmeen Manyisha, the lanes from New Kensington to Tarentum are still expected to remain closed until June 27.

Birch said it's too dangerous for an ambulance to attempt crossing from New Kensington against oncoming traffic. The bridge is too long, with too many issues at the intersection on the Tarentum end, he said.

In addition to New Kensington, Birch said his service covers Arnold and the lower end of Plum and is a backup for Lower Burrell, Tarentum, East Deer, Plum, Springdale and Murrysville.

Because of how congested the detour route has often been, Birch said his service has rerouted from Allegheny Valley Hospital to other facilities, relying more on the new Allegheny Health Network hospital in Harmar and going to Forbes Hospital as well.

Once the bridge fully reopens, Manyisha said more work remains to be done that will require lane restrictions and briefly stopping traffic, as had been done before the closure.

Above the bridge, work remaining includes replacing light poles, repairing the sidewalk and patching asphalt, she said.

Underneath, some bearing work, steel repairs and painting remains to be done. None of that work will impact traffic except for short stoppages during jacking and lowering of the bridge, she said.

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(c)2021 The Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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