July rain, flooding take toll on road work plans in Western Pa.
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jeremy McCracken is used to playing catch-up.
A PennDOT highway foreman in Bridgeville, McCracken said emergency repairs connected to this summer's furious rainstorms and flooding pushed his crew's scheduled maintenance work to the backburner.
Crews across the county are in a similar predicament. Scheduled work that isn't completed before the summer road construction season ends will be delayed until next year, when a full slate of new maintenance projects will demand attention.
“This kind of work sort of messes up your work plan, but emergencies come up and you have to deal with them,” McCracken said as he stood on more than 100 tons of soil on a shoulder of Piney Fork Road in South Park.
“It's all about prioritizing,” McCracken said.
The soil replaced ground that the overflowing Peters Creek washed away in July. McCracken said flooding closed a low-lying section of Piney Fork between Triphammer and Snowden roads — near a railroad tunnel known locally as the “Green Man Tunnel” — on two separate occasions. The washout left a 1½-foot dropoff on the western side of the road that is used by about 1,000 vehicles a day.
“It was a safety concern,” McCracken said.
Work done by McCracken's seven-man crew included unclogging a nearby culvert to limit flooding and filling in the washed-out area along the road, grading it to make it level with Piney Fork.
South Park and 11 other communities declared states of emergency during July's flooding. The worst occurred on July 10, when many areas received as much as 3 inches of rain in less than three hours in the morning, and more rain later in the day. High wind and lightning compounded the problems.
A week ago, Gov. Tom Corbett asked the federal government for disaster relief on behalf of Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and 11 other counties that were socked by storms. His office this week announced that businesses and homeowners could be eligible for low-interest loans from the federal Small Business Administration to make repairs. Damages and other costs are expected to exceed $19.8 million, he said.
Angelo Pampena, PennDOT's Allegheny County maintenance manager, said it's too soon to say how much his division will spend on emergency repairs.
Unanticipated expenses so far have included money for materials and overtime for workers, many of whom worked double shifts after storms to remove debris from roads to get them open again.
Damage was widespread, affecting areas that included Potato Garden Road in Findlay, Piney Fork and Snowden roads in South Park, Boston Hollow Road in Elizabeth Township, Saxonburg Boulevard in Cheswick and Saltsburg and Verona roads in Penn Hills.
Most of the county's roughly 200 maintenance workers tackled emergency work following a half-dozen recent storms that resulted in flooding and road closures, Pampena said.
Pampena said PennDOT budgets about $10 million a year for summer maintenance work in Allegheny County.
Emergency repairs take a bite out of that.
“We don't have unlimited funding. We will have to roll some work into next year,” Pampena said, estimating emergency repairs could continue for another month.
The summer construction season typically ends on Oct. 31. Pampena said he will sporadically pull crews off emergency work to tackle scheduled repairs in an effort to complete as much planned work as possible this season.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ohio River Trail Council club finds adventures close to home
- Pittsburgh area offers abundance of great riding venues, bicyclists say
- Monroeville technical school to add 3-D printer into curriculum
- Millvale, Castle Shannon 2014 Banner Communities designation
- Moon seeks funding for riverfront park plan
- Overbrook church receives $10K grant to refurbish stained glass windows