JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Witnessing downtown Johnstown’s Franklin Street Bridge being renamed on Friday in honor of seven fallen Johnstown city firefighters, including his father, was a special moment for Rich Roberts.

The Maryland state trooper and Johnstown native was 9 years old when his father, Richard, died in the line of duty in February 1989.

“It’s a great honor for all that have fallen,” Roberts said, adding that he appreciates everything the city fire department does.

He was joined at the ceremony on the bridge by several family members, including his paternal uncle, Mark, who was surprised at how fast the legislation to rename the structure went through.

“It’s just a true honor to their bravery and courage,” Mark Roberts said.

Friday’s event was hosted by state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, who penned House Bill 124, which renamed the Franklin Street structure the City of Johnstown Firefighters Memorial Bridge.

Rigby noted the importance of the day and offered thanks to state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland Township, who chairs the Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee, for his assistance in pushing the legislation through and for adding a section stating that the bridge will also honor any future city firefighters who die in the line of duty.

“This is an important day for the city and the City of Johnstown Fire Department,” Assistant Chief James McCann said. He led the event and introduced each speaker.

McCann said the renaming was a “fitting tribute.”

The idea to do so came from a citizen who stopped in the station one day and made the recommendation.

It was International Association of Fire Fighters Local 463 President Eric Miller who suggested all seven – Capt. Jacob Grafe, Joseph Costanzo, Thomas Potter, John Brindle, Robert Urbasik, Richard Roberts and Capt. John Slezak – be honored.

McCann contacted Rigby to get the ball rolling and later reached out to PennDOT to see about repainting the structure because he knew rehabilitation work would happen soon. His request was approved, and the assistant chief recommended “International Orange” paint – the same color as the famous Golden Gate Bridge, which is partially made of steel from Bethlehem Steel.

“To be able to tie these in is fitting for the city of Johnstown,” McCann said.

Repainting and renaming the bridge was Phase One of a two-part project. Miller said the next phase is rehabilitating the firefighters’ memorial park beside First United Methodist Church at the corner of Vine and Franklin streets. That will be completed next year.

For Robyn (Costanzo) Marsden, the ceremony was a welcome re-connection to her family’s roots.

She lives outside the area, and when investigating her grandfather, Joseph Costanzo, one of the firefighters honored by the bridge, she discovered a Facebook post about Friday’s event.

“I was just looking for some information,” Marsden said. “What a really sweet outcome.”

She plans on returning to the city next year for the park dedication.

During the ceremony, Rigby and Langerholc presented Miller with a framed copy of H.B. 124, and Johnstown City Mayor Frank Janakovic read a proclamation renaming the bridge before handing it to him.

The former Franklin Street Bridge was closed in July for a $1.3 million repair project and reopened on Friday.

Thomas Prestash, PennDOT District 9 executive, said at the ceremony that there are 333 state-owned bridges in Cambria County and just 22 are named.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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