Water, weather take toll on Wilmerding roadway
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 4:16 a.m.
Heavy rains in recent months and fluctuating temperatures may have undermined a hillside that was secured by the Army Corps of Engineers more than a decade ago.
Ice Plant Hill Road is closed indefinitely at the Wilmerding YMCA because of a landslide late Wednesday afternoon.
“There were several boulders in the lane of travel coming up the hill,” officer James Matrazzo said. “There was shale rock all around it.”
North Versailles Township police, who patrol Wilmerding, were notified of the slide by YMCA staff and patrons.
“It's been a disruption,” YMCA executive director Scott Heasley said. “People are having to detour to get to our parking lot.”
Crews from Allegheny County and Wilmerding were on the scene for several hours on Wednesday, moving rocks and debris from the roadway.
The closure will remain effective indefinitely because of safety concerns.
“We're just trying at this time to stabilize the hillside,” borough manager Joe Hartzell said.
While the closure is an inconvenience to drivers, it is not something that took local residents by surprise.
“The hillside has been an issue for several years,” Heasley said. “(Patrons) understand it is an inconvenience. They're very understanding.”
Motorists can get to the Y from East McKeesport, where Morrelle Avenue leads into Ice Plant Hill Road, but cannot access adjacent Westinghouse Avenue in Wilmerding.
Ice Plant Hill Road and Westinghouse Avenue were lined with Jersey barriers to hold back falling rocks and dirt since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was called in during the 1990s by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.
“They made a temporary road on top of the hill,” Wilmerding council president Stephen Shurgot said. “They went down and knocked some of the loose boulders down.”
The Pittsburgh office of the Corps of Engineers could not be reached for comment at presstime. In recent weeks boulders have damaged the barriers.
“They did a really good job,” Shurgot said. “I guess with all the rain and freeze and thaw cycles, it was undermined.”
Shurgot said the cost of repairs is above the resources of the borough, East Allegheny School District and the county, which own the hillside.
He said the borough will have its engineering consultant Glenn Engineering contact the county, Doyle and the Corps of Engineers over the next few days about how to deal with the problem.
Staff Writer Jennifer R. Vertullo contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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