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North Huntingdon commissioners stick with original road paving plan

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Despite pitches from commissioners hoping to get a few more rough roads in their wards added to this year's paving schedule, North Huntingdon officials are sticking to a five-year plan that tackles the township's worst roads first.

At a recent board meeting, Ward 2 Commissioner Zachary Haigis asked that several streets in the Country Hills section be included.

“The streets I'm concerned about were torn up for sewer-line work last summer,” Haigis said. “The residents already were inconvenienced while the project was being done. I don't think they should continue to suffer for another year until the roads are paved properly.”

Haigis said the roads he wants paved are Laurel Avenue and Country Hills and Crestview drives.

“The roads I would like to see done are drivable, but the areas where the (utility) work was done are sinking,” he said. “And after the hard winter we've had, they've gotten worse.”

The township has agreements with utilities that serve the municipality to share the cost of rebuilding roads when underground lines are replaced or serviced, said Rich Albert, the public-works director.

“The utilities would normally only be responsible for returning a road to its previous condition when they have to tear up the pavement to do work,” Albert said. “But several years ago, we decided that when possible, it's smarter for us to add to what the utilities spend for paving and have the road rebuilt instead of just resurfaced.”

The agreements call for the work to be performed within two years after the utilities have completed a project, Albert said.

This will be the second consecutive year that the township has earmarked about $700,000 for road paving, Albert said. Prior to 2013, North Huntingdon spent about $400,000 for such work, he said.

Haigis said that because the roads in his ward eventually will be rebuilt, the municipality could do the work this year and then wait for reimbursement for the utilities' portion of the project.

While Commissioner Tom Krause, who represents the 6th Ward, did not present a specific list of streets he would like to see added to the paving list, he said there is no shortage of roads that need attention.

“We use a system to grade the condition of our roads from ‘A' to ‘F' and there are 46 of them in my ward that scored between a ‘D' and an ‘F'” he said. “So you couldn't really go wrong by adding any of the F's to the paving list.”

Township manager John Shepherd said the five-year paving plan was created to serve as a guideline to ensure that the worst roads are fixed first, so “there's room for flexibility.”

“If a street requires immediate attention because it poses a safety hazard, we're not going to ignore it because it's not on the list,” he said. “But the list does give us a way to plan work.”

In addition to a road's condition, grades are assigned based on factors such as traffic volume and whether they are traveled by heavy trucks, said Mike Turley, the township's assistant manager.

Albert said adding to the paving list could create logistical problems.

“Obviously, we would have to spend more money, which is something the commissioners certainly could do if they choose to,” he said. “But more paving means the time to complete the work could become an issue. As it is now, we're already doing paving work well into November, which is pretty late in the year.”

For asphalt to bond correctly, the outside temperature must be warm enough for the material to remain pliable while it is being spread and compacted, he said.

“I know there's been suggestions that we hire a private contractor to do some of the extra work,” he said. “But I don't believe we'd be getting the most bang for our buck if we do it.”

Albert estimates that hiring a private contractor can increase the cost of a paving project by about 30 percent.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626 or at

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