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Smith Working To Address Clear Creek Bridge Concerns

October 11, 2013
PUNXSUTAWNEY – House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson/Indiana/Armstrong) said today that he’s been working closely with state agencies and local officials to expedite the timeline for the reconstruction of the Clear Creek Bridge and to identify a shorter route on which to detour traffic.

“I have been speaking with Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch and pushing for an accelerated construction schedule,” Smith said. “Our conversations have been productive and PennDOT is now working to get all the preliminary design work completed in order for construction to begin at the end of the year instead of next spring.”

Smith also said that PennDOT’s originally scheduled reopen date of July 2014 has been moved to Memorial Day 2014.  

“With more federal flood relief funding now coming into Jefferson County through FEMA, I am confident we can get the new bridge open by Memorial Day,” said Schoch. “We also believe we can put the project out to bid in November. Speaker Smith has been instrumental in pushing these timelines ahead and we appreciate his active involvement with this project.”  

According to Smith, the installation of a temporary bridge is still being evaluated.   He said the National Guard had been contacted about a bridge which would be available to emergency vehicles, but that option has not been successful to date.   A more recent discussion with a local contractor and engineer about the possibility of putting in a temporary bridge beside the existing bridge is ongoing.

Acknowledging that an extended detour has been another area of extreme frustration for local residents, Smith said that he is working closely with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and their Parks and Forestry departments, PennDOT and the local townships to secure access and winter maintenance on some of the local roads in order to provide a shorter detour.

“While we need to get the new bridge functioning as soon as possible, our more immediate concern is the current detour that is taking everyone miles out of their way,” Smith said. “The conversations are continuing and I am hoping for the establishment of a more reasonable route in the near future.”

Heath Township Supervisor Dan Leonard noted that Smith has been fully engaged in this issue from day one.   “Sam has been working side-by-side with the township and state and local leaders to fix this problem. The absence of this bridge impacts many lives whether it’s from an economic standpoint, or a safety perspective. Sam understands that and has been focused on bringing everyone together to improve the situation as soon as possible.  We appreciate his leadership.”

Smith said that he has been working on this issue and pushing for a resolution since shortly after the flooding occurred in June. “I have visited the impacted area and heard from hundreds of local residents who are being severely inconvenienced by this closure. This bridge has been the focus of my attention for the past three months,” he said. “I intend to do everything I can and work with everyone involved to lessen this burden for the people I represent.”

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