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South Hills

Generators help keep Pleasant Hills traffic signals going

| Friday, May 11, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

When the electricity goes out, traffic on busy roads — like state Route 51 — can become a nightmare.

Generators, like the six Pleasant Hills Borough now has, help to keep the signals running and traffic moving smoothly during those power outages.

“It's just for safety,” Pleasant Hills police Chief Brian Finnerty said. “When there's no lights, the vehicle code says you treat it like a stop sign. Do people do that? No.”

The Pleasant Hills Police Department recently received a nearly $3,000 grant from the Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation to purchase three Honda portable generators. They received the generators at the beginning of April.

Pleasant Hills previously had three generators — two in the public works department and one in the police department. Those generators are more than 10 years old, but still work.

Finnerty said he noticed other municipalities utilizing generators to keep traffic signals operating during power outages and brought the idea to Pleasant Hills when he became chief several years ago.

When Finnerty began looking to add more generators to the borough, state Rep. Bill Kortz recommended he apply for the grant.

There are 10 traffic signal intersections in Pleasant Hills and it can require at least two officers to direct traffic at one intersection when the signals go out.

That ties up police department resources.

Some intersections have four or five roads that greet at one intersection.

“You've got your hands full there,” Finnerty said.

The generators can be plugged into an inverter installed at the traffic signals that allow them to continue to operate, Finnerty said. They can last between eight to 12 hours on one tank of gas.

“With these, you can continue on safely,” he said.

When traffic signals go out, it also causes traffic to back up. This will keep people moving like business as usual.

Both Route 51 and Curry Hollow/Lebanon Church road run through Pleasant Hills, with more than 50,000 motorists utilizing the busy thoroughfares daily, the chief said.

However, the two roads are on different grids and typically don't have power outages at the same time. The last time Finnerty came remember both going out at the same time was during Snowmageddon in 2010.

With six generators, Pleasant Hills police should be able to keep most of the traffic signals on Route 51 in the borough on during a power outage.

The devices also can be used to assist any of Pleasant Hills' 8,500 residents with medical emergencies in the event of a power outage.

Several years ago, Finnerty said, Pleasant Hills police were able to use a generator to keep a resident's ALS breathing machine operating during a power outage.

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