Section of Route 228 at Interstate 79 will reopen on Friday in Cranberry
Some of the utility infrastructure that crashed onto Route 228 in Cranberry and disrupted traffic for more than 48 hours could be relocated in several years with the planned construction of an underpass, township and utility officials said on Thursday.
The reopening of Route 228, which carries about 40,000 vehicles daily, and adjoining Interstate 79 ramps was expected to occur by rush hour on Friday morning, officials said.
High winds toppled nine Penn Power utility poles and six aluminum PennDOT light poles on Tuesday evening. Restoration stretched into Friday morning because repair crews had to lift nearly 10,000 feet of cable at 24 pounds per foot belonging to Consolidated Communications, which provides cable service to the area.
“It's very tedious and labor-intensive work,” said spokeswoman Laura ZuHone of Consolidated Communications. “It's very heavy, and safety is our main concern.”
The utility and light poles fell down in a domino effect in the westbound lanes, said Middlesex resident Amanda Grell, who was sitting at a traffic light on eastbound Route 228 at the height of the storm.
Grell said her two children — Josh, 12, and Emma, 9 — were with her as was a friend of Josh's. They witnessed a blinding rain that swept sideways. The National Weather Service said an 85-mph downburst hit about 7 p.m.
“When I looked out the window, there were trees bent in half, and then the next thing, there was a bright flash of blue light, and then the poles and lines just started coming down,” Grell said. “That was probably the scariest weather experience I've ever been involved with.”
A preliminary check showed the lighting poles were pulled down by the heavy wires that fell when the utility poles toppled, PennDOT spokeswoman Deborah Casadei said.
She said PennDOT would participate in a post-mortem to discuss how agencies responded, including why the poles fell. The discussion likely would be led by Cranberry officials, she added.
“It's a bit early to be talking about that now,” Casadei said on Thursday afternoon. “We're focusing on getting the road open as quickly as we can, but safely.”
When an underpass is constructed between Cranberry Woods and Cranberry Springs Drive, running under Route 228, some poles and wires will be relocated, said Cranberry Manager Jerry Andree.
The utility and township engineers have not determined yet how many will move and the final designs, according to Rob Lombardo, an area manager for Penn Power.
New utility poles were in place on Thursday, he said, and crews can restring electric lines without affecting traffic.
Penn Power officials have said they believe the overpowering winds — not design problems — caused the collapse.
“I see no reason that we'd have to change anything,” Lombardo said. “Those poles are capable of holding whatever we have on them.”
He doesn't know exactly how much the electric lines weighed, but said they were “pencil thin” and much lighter than the cable lines.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.