The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 10, 2014

Conneaut bears brunt of detoured traffic from closed I-90

Pa. experts to assess damage to bridge semi-truck hit

CONNEAUT — Engineers must assess damage inflicted to a Pennsylvania bridge by a semi-truck before Interstate 90 east reopens to traffic, said a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation official.

The eastbound lanes won’t reopen until experts analyze a bridge that lifts Pond Road traffic over the freeway in Springfield Township, Pa., according to news reports.  “We need to get an engineer to assess the damage,” Tom Mello, PennDOT assistant county manager, said Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, Conneaut will remain the focus of an I-90 detour that has clogged the downtown district and created lengthy traffic tie-ups. All I-90 eastbound traffic is being funneled off the freeway at Route 7 in Conneaut, pointed north to Route 20 (the intersection of Main and Mill streets) and then east on Route 20 into Pennsylvania, eventually connecting to Route 6N in Springfield for the return trip to I-90, officials said.

A tractor-tractor rig reportedly struck the bottom deck of the bridge sometime Wednesday, officials said. When PennDOT learned of the crash, an engineer dispatched to examine the span recommended the bridge and the eastbound lanes be closed pending a closer inspection, officials said. The shutdown occurred shortly before noon.

Time of the Wednesday crash was not immediately known, Mello said. The Pennsylvania State Police at Girard, referred all inquiries to PennDOT.

Conneaut police and firefighters were busy directing traffic at key intersections along the route, said City Manager Tim Eggleston. “We’re trying to set up shifts” in case of a long-term shutdown, he said.

Safety forces will be under pressure until the freeway is reopened, Eggleston said.

“It’s going to be a cold night,” he said late Thursday afternoon. “This is terrible.”

Traffic was backed up for miles on I-90, Eggleston said. Some eastbound vehicles exited the freeway at Route 193 in Kingsville Township, and a lengthy line of trucks could be seen at the intersection of Route 193 and Route 20 in North Kingsville.

Conneaut Police Chief Charles Burlingham, helping to direct traffic at Main and Mill streets, said he had not heard any timetable on the freeway's reopening.

"I've heard it could be 24 hours, I've heard it could be six or seven days," he said.

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