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West Smithfield Street landslide remediation could cost $1.5 million

Michael DiVittorio
| Friday, June 27, 2014, 3:56 a.m.
Trees stand on the edge of an eroding hillside along West Smithfield Street in Lincoln.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Trees stand on the edge of an eroding hillside along West Smithfield Street in Lincoln.
Lincoln councilwoman Tammy Firda and Lincoln police Chief Richard M. Bosco view a portion of West Smithfield Street in Lincoln.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Lincoln councilwoman Tammy Firda and Lincoln police Chief Richard M. Bosco view a portion of West Smithfield Street in Lincoln.

Lincoln and PennDOT officials are working with other agencies to remediate land near a section of West Smithfield Street, a portion of which has been blocked to motorists.

Police Chief Richard Bosco said the problem area is approximately 220 feet wide, 120 feet deep and 30 feet thick. The bottom layer consists of limestone, followed by sandstone, red clay shell and red clay, and is capped by 30 feet of topsoil.

“Everything below the topsoil is highly (likely to deteriorate) and breaks down by water,” Bosco said. “So over the years the limestone, the sandstone and the red clay shell have all washed away and it has become an unstable foundation for the topsoil and the foundation up above ... Tons of earth are waiting to fall down on what's left of West Smithfield.”

Major problems started to arise during spring storms.

West Penn Power crews cleared dead tree branches above power lines along the street on May 16 while the road was closed as a result of a landslide up the hill. A huge tree fell because of a storm and knocked out power lines, leaving half a dozen residents without electricity until crews made repairs.

PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan said a geotechnical unit conducted a field view of the area on May 19, and the entire site has been surveyed.

“Our maintenance staff attempted several times to clean (the) roadway. However, (the) hillside continued to slide from above (the) roadway,” Cowan said.

PennDOT obtained emergency funds for the remediation. Estimated costs are between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Cowan said a work order was executed on June 4 and Gannett-Fleming was brought on as a consultant. Three borings were drilled to help determine the best way to conduct repairs.

“It was determined that a barrier was needed to completely block (the) road because the slide is still active,” Cowan said. “(PennDOT) wants to have the soil nails in place and have the roadway back open this year. Maintenance on the roadway, mill and overlay, and other activities may push (the project) into 2015.”

Soil nails are like long rebar. In this case they are 40 feet long and are drilled and grouted at 4-foot intervals at a 40-degree angle into the failure plane.

Jersey barriers, or concrete barriers, were installed to close off the area. But some motorists still enter at their own risk.

There have been two accidents in the last three weeks.

“We're respectfully asking people to stay out of that area,” Bosco said.

Resident Gregory Babyak lives below the landslide area. His home is beyond the cement barriers, but between barrels used to restrict the street to local and emergency traffic.

“It's been going on between six to eight weeks now,” Babyak said. “I am in no danger ... I'm not stuck. It's just a pain because I have to move the barrels to get in and out.”

Babyak said he has to go to a post office in the Boston section of Elizabeth Township to get his mail, and the borough had to intervene when he wasn't receiving garbage collection.

Babyak said the borough is doing what it can to keep residents informed and help with any problems that arise.

“The borough's been telling us what the state's been telling them,” Babyak said.

Councilwoman Tammy Firda said PennDOT had a meeting with borough officials last week to discuss the roadway.

PennDOT will have to obtain permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Conservation District because of a nearby streambed.

“Everybody is trying to work together,” Firda said.

The borough reached out to Elizabeth Township to help coordinate emergency services to residents along Yough Road.

“We can get to every one of our residents,” Bosco said of emergency responses.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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