Saturday, August 13, 2011

The New Bridge at Denbo PA for the Mon–Fayette Expressway PA Turnpike 43


     If you are from the Monongahela river valley area, no doubt you know about the Mon-Fayette Expressway.    Perhaps you have driven on sections even.  High speed surface transport from route 68 near Morgantown WV to Pittsburgh (well, close to), through Fayette, Washington and Allegheny Counties.  Slowly it is coming together, thanks to the recent opening of the WV portion, this widely unused expressway has always sort of interested me.  

     As a young spud commuting to California University Of Pa, I remember coming off the 2 lane Low Hill area of Rt. 88  and suddenly the road opened up into nearly 2 mile expanse of 4 lane divided highway that ended basically as quickly as it began.  I remember coming down the hill and entering this mainly deserted 4 lane stretch.  I would push the silver Chevy Chevette I was driving then at copious  rates of speed down the centerline of the north bound lane, imagining I was landing the Space Shuttle on some giant runway, then the timing belt broke and left me stranded, but I digress.

     From what I was told back then, the road had been in the planning stages for years and this 4 lane, 2 mile stretch was completed in the early 1980's.  At the cloverleaf near Brownsville, you'd exit this strip and if you looked further north, you would see the barricades placed where the road ended into farmers fields.  Here, you would enter RT. 40 and continue to Brownsville, PA.    Continue down 40 towards Uniontown, PA and you would cross the Lane Bane Bridge, built surprisingly (to me), way back in 1960 as part of then the proposed Mon-Fayette Expressway.  Enter modern times and now the expressway is open as part of the PA Turnpike system, and the bridge is finally now realizing its special purpose.  The problem is, this bridge empties  into the outskirts and near wastelands of Brownsville and you have to go through a few blocks of traffic lights.  Not very express at an, indeed. 

     If you have traveled in this area in the past few years, you've no doubt noticed all sorts of construction in this area as the state is working on a solution.  Roads have been resurfaced, moved, built and rerouted to eliminate that pesky Brownsville problem.  

    Enter Denbo.

     Denbo, PA, an old patch town that was the housing for the once mighty Vesta 6 mine (now completely gone) was the site chosen where the expressway would now cross the Mon.  Last year I started visiting this site to document this bridge building project.   On my first visit, I took my bike w/ me and parked down by the derelict Pechins Marina and rode up to the construction area.  Being a Saturday, I thought it would be free of workers but I was wrong.  Turned out to not be a problem as I biked past the skeleton crew working that day as they either just disregarded me or gave casual waves.  As construction progresses, I will update this page w/ new images of the progress.

On the hill above the resurfaced area of 88

Another view.
The underside of the ramp/bridge leading to the Denbo bridge, crossing 88

Another view

On the ramp/bridge

From this ramp, where the expressway crosses RT.88, I headed to the bridge site.

Where the road ends and the bridge begins

Gratuitous blog author shot

Denbo.  Funny how these little patch towns look so scenic and picturesque from afar

Fayette County side

After I took the above shots, I headed on down the hill into the town itself.  The below pictures were taken in the fall of 2010.

Looking on the Fayette side

The playground in the foreground is where Vesta 6 stood.

     A few weeks ago, Danielle, Remy and myself stopped by to check out the progress from the past visit 10 months ago.  Note how the spans have grown.  This bridge is typical of bridge construction of this era.  Functional and utilitarian.  There are no trusses needed and I feel that takes away something.  On a side note, the new bridge at Point Marion, PA, veered from this new formula of bridge building, as it actually looks rather old.  The pictures below are from July 2011.

Note how much the bridge has grown in 10 months

     Work looks to be progressing quickly and I'd guess it will be open for traffic in less then 2 years.  

     Pictures will be added every few months, so check back again.

Just took these December 31, 2011.....

This is from March, 2012


  1. While I like to see progress, I hate to see the countryside destroyed by these ugly highways. I travel throughout the Mon valley on back roads and come upon a HUGE mass of concrete known as Rt 43. The nearby land is scraped bare and many through roads are closed off, as well as old railroad ROWs. Just my opinion.

    Give me the old days...steam engines, Mine shafts, trolley cars and an old brick lined tunnel.

  2. I don't think it's that terrible, Rob. But think of it this way, someone in the 1800's probably sad the same thing as you did above about the railroads, but ended it w/ "Give me the old days of oxen and carts"
    Thanx for reading and commenting.

  3. Its neat to see the pics in progress .. I'm currently working on this project and have been there since August 2011. Its really cool being a carpenter on this site, probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for building segmental bridge. Thanks again

  4. Cool, Snap. Must be awesome to work on a project like this. Just added a current shot from last week.

  5. I was just down past Denbo last week. My grandmothers house is one of the few that are still standing. When I went down Jew Store Hill it didn't even begin to resemble the Denbo that I grew up around. I remember sitting on her porch at night watching the coke ovens across the river. The good times of playing softball on the ball field beside St. Paul's Methodist Church, many of windows were broken. The houses and families that lived where Pechin's Marina now sits. The Post office used to be my dad's mothers house. I was amazed to see how high the river was where they are putting the bridge for 43. No wonder it always flooded out at the railroad tressle. Many many years of good memories down there.

    1. I lived in the Vesta 6 patch in the late 50's early 60's. we kids shopped at the "Jew Store" candy counter where Saul would constantly prod us with "Hurry up! Hurry up!" to make our purchases and leave the store. I also remember sled riding down "Company Store Hill" which was the road down to Vesta 6 and Denbo from Low Hill where my grandmother lived.

  6. Gonna miss Vesta 6. spent my Child hood summers there. Jones 1st st. Remember the Jew store the company store and Sagys pond and the strip mine. .Remember the Gills, and Bradys.

  7. There is a bronze statue of "Toots" holding his coffee can of blackberries with the inscription "Got any change?" that sits near the site of the proposed toll booth.

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