Cochranton upgrades

A pickup truck drives along the bridge on Route 173 in Cochranton recently. The bridge is expected to be replaced in 2015 as part of a multi-million dollar project by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The railroad crossing in the foreground also is due to be upgraded as an enhanced safety project, according to PennDOT. 

COCHRANTON — A noticeable safety upgrade is coming to Route 173 in Cochranton next year in connection with a planned multi-million project to replace the truss bridge carrying highway over French Creek.

The road-level railroad crossing that carries the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad across Route 173 also is set for improvement during the 2015 construction season.

The railroad crossing improvement project means new operating flashing lights as well as the addition of safety gates at the crossing and a rebuilding of the crossing itself, according to Jim Carroll, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. It’s a $364,514 project that will be paid 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent by PennDOT, Carroll said.

“Whenever we do a bridge project we look at the project area for potential safety improvements,” Carroll said.

The railroad crossing is just north of the bridge that takes Route 173 over French Creek. The bridge, a truss-style bridge that links Cochranton with Fairfield Township, is scheduled to be replaced in 2015.

The upgrade of the railroad crossing in conjunction with the new bridge is welcomed by Cochranton officials.

“It’s definitely going to be an improvement,” Council President Dan Jackson said of the planned improvements to the railroad crossing. “There’s a lot of trucks on the highway.”

“It will increase safety with the addition of the gates,” Dan Bresee, a member of Cochranton Borough Council as well as head of the borough’s volunteer ambulance service. “Traffic coming over the bridge (from south to north) can’t always see there’s a train on the tracks.”

That’s because the approaches to the bridge on both sides are elevated. The new bridge will flatten out the approaches.

The new Cochranton bridge, at an estimated construction cost of $8.5 million, will be more than 37 feet wide to accommodate two 12-foot wide lanes of travel plus two 4-foot shoulders and a 5-foot wide sidewalk.

The current Route 173 bridge is a truss design that was built in 1930. It has a total roadway with of 22 1/2 feet and doesn’t have any sidewalks.

The bridge project is expected to go to bid in January 2015 with construction during  2015, according to PennDOT.

The new Cochranton bridge will be a total of three spans with two piers in French Creek compared to the current two-span, one pier configuration. The new Cochranton bridge will have no weight limit restrictions.

PennDOT is expected to meet with borough officials and others Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Cochranton Volunteer Fire Department to review the project, according to Jackson and Bresee.

Meanwhile, downstream from Cochranton on French Creek in the Mercer County community of Carlton, similar bridge and rail crossing projects are set to finish in the weeks ahead.

This year, replacement of the single-lane Carlton Truss Bridge on New Lebanon Road in French Creek Township, Mercer County, is being done in a $5.8 million construction project. The truss bridge, dating from 1898, was closed by PennDOT in 2011 due to structural deficiencies and a detour has been in place since.

The new Carlton bridge is 24 feet wide compared to the previous 16 1/2 feet and will accommodate two lanes of traffic and have no weight restrictions. The Carlton bridge is expected to open in the next few weeks.

The railroad crossing for the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad on the New Lebanon Road located near the bridge is being improved as well. The railroad crossing project, at $304,000, will improve the road surface at the crossing as well as install flashing warning lights, Carroll said. However, safety gates are not part of the project, Carroll said.

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