By Mary Spicer
Brighter days are ahead for the Mead Avenue Bridge.
During their monthly meeting Wednesday night, members of Meadville City Council gave the go-ahead to an agreement that would illuminate the Meadville side of the bridge at an annual additional cost to the city of approximately $230. The bridge, which spans French Creek between Vernon Township and the City of Meadville, is owned by Crawford County.
According to a written presentation by City Manager Joe Chriest, the city pays an electric bill of less than $130 per year to illuminate the two “cobra head” lights currently in place on Mead Avenue between French Street and the bridge. These lights are currently owned and maintained by Penelec; the city’s only responsibility is to pay $5.39 per light per month to keep them glowing.
However, Chriest explained to council, the design of the new bridge will raise the surface of the roadway several feet to accommodate 100-year flood levels. Furthermore, this design will require retaining walls to be constructed on the city side of the bridge to support the new approach roadway. As a result, Chriest reported, utility poles cannot be installed along the approach from French Street to the bridge, eliminating the ability to continue to use Penelec-maintained lights in their current locations.
In order to provide an illuminated approach to the city, Chriest has worked with the county during the design phase of the bridge to include the city’s standard decorative lighting as part of the project. Because the installation of the lights would be included in the federal funding for the bridge, the purchase and installation of the lights and poles would be without cost to the city; the only extra expense would be the electric bill.
“We want to use this as a gateway,” Chriest explained to council. “We think a lot of traffic will use it — and we want to spruce it up.”
In response to a question from Councilmember LeRoy Stearns about whether long-term plans include extending the decorative street lighting, which is the same design as the decorative lighting already installed at several locations in the downtown area to the French Creek Parkway, Chriest said that the intent is to clean up the area, which will include the installation of brick sidewalks coming into town.
“I think we have to light the bridge,” Councilmember Nancy Mangilo-Bittner said.
Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff remained hesitant about the proposal.
“Part of my issue with all of this is that if this is part of a plan for gateway enhancement into the city, I haven’t seen that plan,” Soff said, noting that he also hasn’t seen a master plan that includes the lighting along Park Avenue or Chestnut Street that’s already in place. The North Street Improvement Project now under way includes the installation of similar lighting along North Street.
In response to Soff’s concerns that the contract between the city and the county requires the city to receive county approval before replacing so much as a burnt-out light bulb, the city’s attorney, Gary Alizzeo, said he was confident that he and the county’s attorney could work out an arrangement that wouldn’t require the city to obtain formal approval from the county before taking care of such routine maintenance.
Stearns suggested that a council subcommittee be appointed to encourage Vernon Township to light their side of the bridge, but the idea was not acted upon.
In the end, the agreement was unanimously approved.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.