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Oakmont holds to tradition by repaving Allegheny River Boulevard with bricks

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 6:40 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Darrell Broscios of Kishmo Concrete clears debris as crews work to replace the brick on one lane of Allegheny River Boulevard in Oakmont on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

Construction crews are hitting the bricks again in Oakmont.

Workers from Kishmo Concrete Contractors of Apollo have begun the task of replacing paving bricks in the 500 and 600 blocks of Allegheny River Boulevard from Mulberry Antiques to the state liquor store.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of July.

The project carries a hefty price tag estimated at $348,000.

While conventional paving such as asphalt might be only a fraction of that cost and be completed in less time, it is a nonstarter on Oakmont's main street.

“I've lived here since 1967 and only one time, and I wasn't in office at the time, I suggested paving that street, and I was ostracized,” Mayor Bob Fescemyer said.

“It's been thought about, and it's been talked about, but the Garden Club and a couple other groups that always have something going on, they like the aesthetics of the brick streets,” he said.

“I think it is a discussion that has occurred a lot over time,” said Councilman Tim Favo, borough public works chairman. “Pretty much the consensus that we have is that the brick streets are a signature of our community and they add to its quaint charm.”

“While they are not in great shape now, the bricks hold up better than the asphalt,” he said.

According to Favo, deterioration of the brick paving is the result of water infiltration between and under the bricks. He said that occurs when the spacers or grouting between the bricks wear out. Then the bricks begin to move as traffic travels over them.

“We've been trying to increase the sewer inlets to limit the amount of water coming down on the bricks,” he said.

Favo said the project is being financed with borough tax dollars and some proceeds of a bond refinancing done a few years ago.

Fescemyer said when he first took office, the borough obtained an estimate on the cost of replacing all the bricks on the boulevard and it was about $5 million.

The business community thinks the brick surface of Allegheny River Boulevard is important to the borough's bustling downtown, said Summer Tissue, chamber of commerce executive director.

“Absolutely,” she said. “We have discussed in the past changing from bricks to asphalt and the retailers, even though it sometimes takes longer to do the construction, think it would be a shame to pave over the bricks.”

“The boulevard, itself, is kind of a trademark for Oakmont,” she said, noting the brick street, gaslight-type street lighting, street pole banners and American flags. “It just makes a more welcoming environment.”

Another reason the business owners like the brick paving is that the work is not too disruptive.

“It can be done in sections, and it doesn't affect the cost,” Tissue said. “It is much better to lose a section of parking as opposed to shutting the whole street down.”

Tissue said the chamber wants to be sure to get the word out that in spite of some street construction, Oakmont is “open for business.”

While construction might interfere with some parking along Allegheny River Boulevard, shoppers are encouraged to park on side streets or in the St. Irenaeus Church parking lot at Maryland Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard.

The work is scheduled to be finished by the end of July.

But Tissue said Kishmo, which had the boulevard contract last year, worked quickly and finished earlier than planned.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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