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Carnegie infrastructure put to the test daily by commercial traffic

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek knows firsthand the issues that come with tractor trailers navigating narrow borough streets.

Kobistek said he was on his way back into Carnegie on Monday morning when he was held up by a tractor trailer attempting to navigate a turn on Chestnut Street too sharp for the truck's turning radius.

The truck, which attempted several times to make the turn, ended up driving onto the sidewalk and side-swiping a telephone pole before completing the turn.

“There are some very tight turns in the borough, especially near Chestnut and East Main Street,” he said. “It damages our infrastructure — the turns are too small for these trailer trucks. It hurts the poles and signs, not to mention, our sidewalks crumble.”

He attributes the increase in commercial traffic to the boom in the area's Marcellus shale industry. Since drilling operations have picked up, there's been an increase in tractor trailers and trains, he said.

Trucks may be passing through town to get to the R.J. Casey Industrial Park, or to Rook Railyard near Mansfield Avenue.

Kobistek said he has reached out to the borough solicitor and state officials for possible remedies, but options are limited.

“There isn't much we can do about it – some roads are state roads, and trains are federally regulated,” he said.

While damage to infrastructure is a worry, he said, one concern is the hazardous materials sometimes carried by trucks and trains.

“Many of those materials they're hauling through the borough are explosive and flammable,” he said.

Last year, after a leak in a tanker truck was discovered by a truck inspection stop in Collier, a quarter-mile radius in Carnegie had to be evacuated.

Borough emergency responders might not have the proper equipment to handle a hazardous material spill, he said. Tractor trailers run through downtown, and both trucks and trains run close to residential areas.

“It would be a significant undertaking, if there were an accident, to get the area evacuated,” Kosbistek said.

Borough police chief Jeff Kennedy agreed.

“It would be extremely difficult,” he said.

He said the fact that Carnegie is a compact area would exacerbate the problem.

“Hazmat might say, ‘Evacuate a two-square-mile area,' – that's all of Carnegie,” he said. “We'd have to divert the entire town.”

And while truck inspections are an option, it is a costly one.

At the borough's expense, local police partner with Pennsylvania State Police to do periodic truck inspections. Due to the cost, the inspections can only be done occasionally.

For a borough police officer to be licensed for truck inspections, the officer must complete at least 42 inspections per quarter – something Kobistek said would take up nearly all the officer's time.

“It would be a full-time job just for truck inspection, and that's something the tax base cannot support,” the mayor said.

With such a small force, there are no extra hands.

“We've only got 13 guys,” he said. “So we can't spare a guy, that's for sure.”

Kobistek said he is frustrated by the issue because there is no benefit to the community.

I feel like we're on an island with this issue,” he said. “A lot of communities are making money with Marcellus shale and we're really not seeing any of the profits, yet the community is directly affected.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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