Drilling Next Week to Pinpoint Cause of Washington Blvd. Cave-In

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

(Photo courtesy state Rep. Bill Kortz, via Facebook)

Crews will be drilling along Washington Boulevard in Port Vue next week as they try to determine the cause of a cave-in that has damaged one lane of the state-maintained road.

Steve Cowan, district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said there is no timeframe yet on how long the investigation will take, or when the repairs will begin.

The cave-in near Dersam Street in the borough's Westwood Hills section was reported Monday. The southbound lane is closed and Washington Boulevard is restricted to one alternating lane, controlled by stop signs.

Council President Mark Tortorice praised state Rep. Bill Kortz for helping to coordinate the quick response of PennDOT and other agencies.

"I have nothing but praise for Bill Kortz, as well as for our police and fire departments, and our public works crews," Tortorice said. "They were out there pretty much all day."

Duquesne Light crews trimmed trees around utility lines, and Peoples Gas has secured one of their underground lines, he said. Pennsylvania American Water Co., which last year purchased the McKeesport sewer system and treatment plant, is also investigating, Tortorice said.

The ground around the caved-in lane is "extremely swampy," he said, and a storm sewer line under the road has collapsed, but it's not clear yet whether the sewer line is a cause of the damage, or a symptom.

Other possibilities include mine subsidence, Tortorice said, or that the roadway failed due to the extremely rainy summer and fall that has damaged many roads in the Pittsburgh area.

"Until they do the drilling, we won't know what caused it," he said.

A nearby house does not appear to be damaged, Tortorice said, though the lawn has been torn up by all of the service vehicles making emergency repairs.

Port Vue officials are hoping the repairs can be made quickly, especially with the weather already turning colder and snow in the forecast. According to a PennDOT traffic volume map, up to 2,100 cars per day use Washington Boulevard.

"That's a major road," Tortorice said. "We don't want it restricted down to one lane when the snow starts flying."

Jason Togyer is volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. and editor of Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at tubecitytiger@gmail.com.

Originally published November 21, 2018.

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