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Asphalt woes follow rough winter in Kittanning, region

| Monday, April 7, 2014, 12:33 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger
Jay Beck, 25, (right) and Randy Ditty, 38, of the Kittanning Street Department, patch holes on Campbell Street in Kittanning. Wednesday April 2, 2014

An unrelenting winter has created a challenge for Kittanning and other municipalities heading into spring: How to best use depleted budgets to patch and pave miles of weather-beaten roads.

“It's become a crucial decision of what to patch and what not to patch,” Kittanning Borough Council President Randy Cloak said. “It was hard to justify spending a lot of money on something that's just going to be swept up and thrown away in a couple of months.”

The borough bought about 20 tons of cold patch asphalt and could need more, public works director Jim Mechling said.

“It seems like every time it rains, whatever we put in comes right back out,” Mechling said.

David Heilman, president of Hei-Way LLC, which supplies asphalt to municipalities in five states, said demand for asphalt is “off the charts.” He said his crew is able to keep up with demand by working longer hours and weekends.

Asphalt supplies have ebbed and flowed nationally during the years.

A shortage in 2008 led road projects from New York to Alaska to be delayed or completed at as high as triple the cost. Increasing oil prices and a shortage of a chemical used to mix asphalt were largely to blame.

Some areas of New Jersey had shortages in early March, with asphalt producers exhausting their daily supply by midday.

Kittanning officials hope to avoid asphalt shortages as summer progresses by starting their road work early, Cloak said. Council expects to repave portions of Jacob and North Water streets and North Grant Avenue, and will review bids for the project during its meeting on Monday night.

“Our projects are going to be significant, so we're hoping larger contractors won't have any trouble getting asphalt early in the season,” Cloak said. “I'd much rather see us move ahead now than be scratching my head wondering where we're going to get asphalt in September.”

So far, the state hasn't had trouble getting asphalt to repair its nearly 40,000 miles of road, said Rich Kirkpatrick, a transportation department spokesman.

PennDOT has used 125 percent more patching material to fix potholes this winter compared to last — 17.6 million tons compared to 7.8 million — and spent about $3.8 million more than last year, he said.

Kirkpatrick said that despite additional costs this winter, PennDOT is in a good financial position to complete road and bridge projects thanks to the new transportation funding law enacted in the fall.

Vince Tutino, president of Lindy Paving, New Galilee, said he doesn't anticipate a shortage this year based on his stockpiles and arrangements with quarries.

“I think we'll be fine with what we think the market will need in our area,” said Tutino, who supplies PennDOT, Pittsburgh and municipalities in Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

“Over the last three years, the requirements (from clients) have diminished. I think supplies for aggregate and asphalt will be adequate,” he said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com. Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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