Harsh winter brings bumpy roads for drivers in Penn Township

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

It's been a bumpy ride for drivers taking Route 130 in Penn Township through this see-saw, freeze-thaw cycle this winter.

An increasing number of potholes not only has had motorists weaving along the state highway to dodge ruts, but the dips jostled township police into contacting PennDOT recently to encourage the agency to patch the worst of the worst cracks.

“(Route) 130 seems to be crumbling fast,” police Chief John Otto said. “Definitely, the last storm, the last freeze-thaw was the straw that broke the camel's back.”

Though a PennDOT spokeswoman said the agency has been busy filling cracks throughout the region when possible, she acknowledged that the cold-patch repairs take a back seat when state workers are plowing snow.

And it's not like there has been a lack of winter weather. The Pittsburgh region already has been blanketed by 53 inches of snow, which is about 30 percent more than the average winter, the National Weather Service in Moon reports.

Valerie Petersen, community relations coordinator for PennDOT District 12, said the agency's crews took advantage of the warmer temperatures last week to complete some cold-patch repairs. But weather forecasters were projecting another snap of extreme cold to smack the region again this week, which will restart the freeze-thaw cycle that causes many of the cracks.

Petersen said it's a vicious cycle for road crews, but it's too early to tell if this winter has been worse than usual. Department officials are noticing an increase in complaints to its 1-800-FIX ROAD (1-800-349-7623) hotline, but don't keep a tally on the number of potholes, she said.

PennDOT doesn't necessarily have a priority list for which roads are fixed first, but it tends to maintain interstates or other highways that have a larger number of drivers first, Petersen said.

“We have (drivers) be our eyes and ears because we can't be everywhere and see everything all the time,” she said.

Within the past week, the deterioration of Route 130 has been a growing topic on a community Facebook page, with some residents saying they also contacted PennDOT's hotline.

Echoing the online comments, Otto said the worst areas are between Long Drive and Hyland Drive and between Burrell Hill Road and North 14th Street.

Some motorists have been driving into the opposite lane of traffic to avoid road damage in front of a tanning salon by Whistle Drive, Otto said.

“There are some places where one pothole is patched and the three around them aren't,” he said.

Township Manager Bruce Light said PennDOT patched a previously cracked area along state-owned Route 993 between Route 130 and Bushy Run Battlefield, but he'd be surprised if the fix lasts through the winter season.

“(The potholes) just come back as soon as you fill them in,” Light said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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