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The Charleroi Monessen Bridge Is Demolished

Updated on September 16, 2011
Onlookers away the blast to send the bridge into the river below.
Onlookers away the blast to send the bridge into the river below. | Source
The Charleroi-Monessen bridge in its last moments.
The Charleroi-Monessen bridge in its last moments. | Source
The bridge is dropped to the river below.
The bridge is dropped to the river below. | Source

Bridge Dropped To Make Way For New Span

The Charleroi-Monessen Bridge is history-for now. Demolition crews have imploded the 107 year old span to as plans to rebuild it move forward.

The bridge enabled easier access between Westmoreland and Washington counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The bridge was closed in late 2008 when an inspection showed severe structural deficiencies.

Work is expected to continue through the winter and be complete some time in late 2012.

When the new bridge is open, it will be named after John K. Tenner, a former Charleroi resident who was both a major league baseball player and former governor of Pennsylvania. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

* * *

It was my first bridge demolition.

I arrived early and found a place a safe distance away from the heart of the action. What I found most interesting was that for every onlooker, there were at least two lost souls who didn’t know what was about to take place.

Many people I did talk to are quite anxious to see the new bridge open. Traffic has been detoured in the area for nearly three years now.

I felt more than a little nostalgia watching the aged structure in its last moments. Being a native and current resident of Charleroi, I loosely estimate having traveled the bridge thousands of times. Its location made getting through the area much quicker.

The bridge had a design feature that some didn’t like: It was open grate. Crossing the open grates meant that if you could look down, you would see fleeting dispatches of the flowing Monongahela River below you.

The grates raised the anxieties of many. Drivers and passengers alike had to fight off or ignore the irrational message thoughts that came with actually seeing was below in the event your journey might fail. Many learned to ignore those messages and went about their business. Those who couldn’t shake the feelings made other travel arrangements.

The grates could also make traction tough. Too much traction was a problem then it would ice over quickly in the winter. It also seemed to make cars shimmy ever so slightly from right to left.

I have many memories of going places and being on the bridge. From outings to emergencies to daily routines, it seemed to rush to my mind while watching the final moments of the bridge.

I, like most of the onlookers, didn't have too much time to dwell.

Shortly before 9 a.m., without announcement, there was a bunch of flashes and an unbelievably loud blast followed by a giant black and gray cloud of smoke.

Then it was gone.

I wanted to stay and see the how the metal structure fell in the river but the blast was quite deafening and the smoke cloud was dissipating my way, so I took that as my exit cue.

Should you ever get a chance to witness a mass demolition, I suggest you be sure to stay a good distance away (which I did) and wear ear plugs (which I didn’t).

I look forward to using the new structure when it opens (hopefully) late next year.

My ears should stop ringing by then.


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