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Cobblestones are quaint but persnickety

| Monday, Sept. 23, 2002

Mother Nature seems to be trying to reclaim the cobblestone streets that run through the residential neighborhoods north of Brookline Boulevard.

Along Gallion Street and Flatbush and Rossmore avenues, weeds push through the space between the stones. Moss and grass give the bone-colored streets a greenish hue in some spots. Thickets of weeds burst through the crevices where the street meets the curb.

On top of that, the stones are uneven and sinking in places, making for a bumpy drive.

"This street here is starting to go real bad," said Jim Lewis, 71, a Gallion Street resident.

City officials say that maintaining cobblestone streets is a costly, challenging endeavor. About 15 percent to 20 percent of Pittsburgh's streets are paved with cobblestones or brick, which have not been used as paving materials for 100 years, said Rob Kaczorowski, assistant director of the city's Department of Public Works.

Nothing can be done to prevent weeds and grass from cropping up, Kaczorowski said. The only solution is to spray and kill the offending plants. He said city workers do their best to keep up with the growth.

"Any brick or block street, there's problems, in and out of the city," Kaczorowski said.

Brick and cobblestone streets freeze more quickly in the winter, and the unevenness of the blocks makes plowing them an arduous process, Kaczorowski said. On the upside, they also thaw more quickly when temperatures rise, and they provide some traction.

Lewis would like his street to be paved with asphalt, but that requires the approval of all the residents who live there. Otherwise, any repairs made to block or brick streets must be done with similar materials, Kaczorowski said.

Some people like how cobblestone streets look.

"We actually don't want it paved, but it does need fixed, though. There are a lot of bumps," said Monica Lannon, who lives on Rossmore Avenue.

The sidewalks that line many of these side streets are infested with weeds, but that's the fault of property owners, who are responsible for maintaining sidewalks outside their homes, Kaczorowski said.

Lewis has killed the weeds that grew out of his sidewalk, and his impatience with the city prompted him to spread weed-killer on the street as well.

"It's terrible," Lewis said. "They don't do anything."

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