MIFFLIN - Eighteen months after breaking ground on one of the largest transportation projects in central Pennsylvania, a large group of people gathered to mark the opening of the new state Route 35 River Bridge on Wednesday.
The project began in the summer of 2011 with construction of a new bridge to span the railroad in Mifflin and completion of a roundabout in front of the middle school in Mifflintown.
The completion of the river bridge marks the third-part of a four-part, $16 million project slated to be completed in 2014 when a new pedestrian bridge opens where the old river bridge currently stands.
Rep. Adam Harris, left, R-Mifflintown, gives a thumbs-up as he hitches a ride with Terry Lebkicher across the new Juniata River Bridge Wednesday. The motorcycle led the parade of cars to officially open the new bridge.
Greg Sidorick, who oversaw the day-to-day operations on the project said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will immediately close the old bridge to vehicular traffic.
Sidorick said the new bridge will be open only to vehicles as they await parts to build the railing for the sidewalk. The old bridge will still be open for pedestrians to walk across.
PennDOT District 2 Executive Kevin Kline said construction of new pedestrian bridge will begin in the summer of 2013.
Roundabouts are circular intersections where traffic moves counter-clockwise, so that all turns into and out of the circle are right turns. This eliminates the risk of head-on, left-turn and right angle crashes. There are special rules for navigating roundabouts.
Approaching and entering
-When approaching a roundabout, slow down and be prepared to yiel to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
-Pull up to the yield line, look to the left and check for approaching traffic within the roundabout. Traffic already in the roundabout has the right-of-way. The most frequent cause of the crashes at roundabouts is drivers who fail to yield before they enter.
-Enter the roundabout when there is an adequate gap in traffic.
Exiting the roundabout
-Once you have entered the roundabout, proceed counter-clockwise to your exit.
-As you approach your exit, use the right turn signal.
-Watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk and be prepared to yield.
Kline thanked the community for their patience during the course of construction and planning for the project.
"This project really balanced improving the infrastructure with the needs of the community," PennDOT Deputy Secretary Scott Christie said.
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, said improving Pennsylvanias infrastructure has a direct effect on the economy.
"We need to have a safe highway system," Corman said.
State Rep. Adam Harris, R-Mifflintown, echoed Cormans concerns about addressing the commonwealths aging infrastructure.
Mifflin Mayor Dale Dodson was the last to speak and said sometimes change can be difficult, but it can be good as well.
Dodson said the bridge would benefit his family-friendly community.