Peters Township approval moves Canonsburg Lake bridge project forward

Harry Funk
Observer Reporter

Plans to upgrade the McDowell Lane bridge and causeway crossing Canonsburg Lake have moved forward with Peters Township Council’s vote Monday to accept additional right of way.

“For various engineering reasons and environmental reasons, the bridge cannot be relocated in its current location, but rather, needs to move south,” township manager Paul Lauer explained. “As a result of that, the right of way needed to contain McDowell Lane, which is a township road, needs to be altered.”

The $3.5 million upgrade is targeted to take place from late winter or early spring through the fall of 2020, according to Bill Ferko of Pittsburgh-based SAI Consulting Engineers, the design team working with Washington County on the project.

The 76-year-old bridge system, which connects Peters and North Strabane townships, will be closed during that period, he said. The proposed detour to reach the other side of the lake from Peters, including such attractions and Little Lake Theatre and Mad Mex restaurant, is 4.5 miles.

The lake crossing’s new configuration calls for two spans totaling 164 feet in length and 33 feet in width.

“It won’t have a designated sidewalk, but it will be able to accommodate pedestrian traffic across it,” Lauer said. “What would have happened had a sidewalk been put in is that North Strabane and Peters Township would have had to accept responsibility for the maintenance of the sidewalk, including snow removal.”

He said the expanded McDowell Lane right of way affects a parking lot that serves the nearby Lakeview Square commercial plaza, a factor that designers have taken into consideration.

“They have adjusted it in a way that will help mitigate the impact,” he told council. “It will result in a loss probably of a couple of spaces, but it won’t eliminate this parking lot.”

Council member Monica Merrell expressed concern about any reduction in spaces, as the plaza’s main lot tends to reach capacity at peak times.

Lauer explained that others would address the situation.

“The county has a responsibility to address this with the property owner,” he said. “And what that solution may turn out to be is really beyond the scope of our approval process.

The 76-acre Canonsburg Lake is formed by a Little Chartiers Creek dam built in 1943 to create a freshwater reservoir for the Canonsburg Forging Plant, which was considered a strategic resource during World War II, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which has owned the lake and surrounding property since the late 1950s.