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PennDOT plans $8.6 million project for Mt. Pleasant's Main Street

| Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, 2:48 p.m.

On a daily basis, about 10,000 motorists steer their vehicles through Mt. Pleasant on the borough's primary east-west thoroughfare — state Route 31 — referred to locally as Main Street.

“And roughly 7 percent of those vehicles are (industrial cargo) trucks,” said Liberty Hill, a plans engineer for PennDOT District 12.

That's 700 such vehicles, most commonly tri-axle dump trucks regularly used to haul multiple tons of coal, lumber and displaced earth.

“A loaded tri-axle truck weighs roughly 80,000 pounds, versus a car that's probably 3,000 pounds,” Hill said.

That weight, plus the borough's topography, has severely degraded the road's quality through the years, he said.

“Mt. Pleasant is hilly,” Hill said. “With those trucks starting and stopping on those hills, it can really increase the wear and tear on those surfaces, and we have determined that is the case.”

With that in mind, the state's department of transportation has assigned $8.6 million in funding acquired via Act 89 of 2013 — the state's transportation funding law — for upgrades planned along a 1 12-mile stretch of the road through the borough, he said.

“The main thing we're excited about is we are funded, and we have a project that is under design, so we feel pretty good that the project will happen,” Hill said.

Project is the product of years of pursuit

At a recent meeting, borough council President Joe Bauer announced that the planned work on Main Street represents the culmination of several years of communication with PennDOT officials.

“It's going to be one of the biggest things to hit this borough in decades,” Bauer said. “Main Street is going to be totally reconstructed. Myself and (borough manager) Jeff Landy and the mayor (Gerald Lucia) worked a couple of years to make this happen.”

The work will involve the installation of LED traffic signals, curb ramps at crosswalks approved by the American Disabilities Association and new pavement stretching from Bridgeport Street to Braddock Road Avenue, Hill said.

A Feb. 5 field study of the road revealed a new surface is well past due, he said.

“We had an excellent kickoff meeting in the field, and we kind of set the scope of work,” Hill said.

Core samples taken of the road verified there is a layer of bricks under the asphalt, which PennDOT officials will seek to fortify, he said.

“We would like to install concrete pavement at the intersections,” Hill said. “We're researching what kind of pavement we can get in there, and we're trying to come up with a good foundation, so we may have to remove some of that brick and install a better sub-base.”

Work remains in the design phase, with final plans tentatively expected by year's end, he said.

The project might begin next spring with a targeted completion by next summer.

Additional work to coincide

PennDOT's planned Main Street initiative will likely take place in concert with a planned stormwater management initiative planned by Jacobs Creek Watershed Association.

“(Association officials) were at the (Feb. 5) meeting, too, so we're going to try to coordinate their work with ours,” Hill said.

The Scottdale-based association recently received grant funding to finance the design of an $800,000, three-phase project planned for sites in the borough and township, including installation of a variety of environmentally friendly, stormwater management tools along Route 31 (Main Street).

The funding is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater management program, and it is being administered by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The association has contracted the Markosky Engineering Group Inc. of Ligonier to produce project designs.

Mike Barrick, the association's president, confirmed the group is trying to coordinate the funding streams for each project so the work for both can be done simultaneously, he said.

“That's so we're not going to impact the residents to a great extent,” Barrick said.

But a lot of things have to fall in to place for that to happen, he added.

“We have to work with the EPA and DEP to acquire the funding. If we get that funding, then an agreement can be developed between JCWA and PennDOT, then PennDOT can manage our project along with their project,” Barrick said.

Official credits promotional tactics

As a member of the board of directors of the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, Landy has worked alongside fellow board member and PennDOT District 12 Executive Joe Szczur to accomplish the organization's goal of enabling communities to enhance their viability, quality of life and long-term sustainability by providing education and technical assistance, he said.

He added such a connection cannot be underestimated when it comes to getting things done locally.

“In this day and age, a lot of times it's who you know, and I market Mt. Pleasant every day,” Landy said. “Mt. Pleasant is a very marketable and a very substantial town in our area, and people do look at projects here because it's money put to good use, and it's not our money.”

As for the long-term effect of the planned Main Street makeover, Landy said he doesn't see anything but positives.

“I think it's going to be a more pleasant, smoother drive,” he said. “I just think it's going to look better and feel better because it's going to be better.”

Detours will be planned

At the time the PennDOT Main Street project commences, traffic detours will be necessary, but details have yet to be completed, Hill said.

“We haven't gotten into traffic control plans, but we would do everything we could to minimize detours,” he said.

That includes conducting the work in phases as the project progresses, he added.

“We have to keep our detours on state roads, like routes 982, 981 and 119, so there's a lot of alternate route, so we have a lot of options,” Hill said. “And it wouldn't be a long duration ... only as needed.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or apanian@tribweb.com.

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