Repairs to McIntosh Drive in McKeesport's Haler Heights neighborhood are expected to begin within 30 days, city officials said.
At Wednesday's meeting, council by 7-0 vote awarded a $316,125 contract to Geobuild LLC of Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, to stablize and rebuild about 122 feet of the street, part of which is down to one lane following a landslide in the 900 block last year.
But residents are worried that other parts of the dead-end street, located just above old Route 48, are also beginning to collapse. On Wednesday, one homeowner criticized city council and Mayor Michael Cherepko, saying they didn't act fast enough.
Harriet Siegmund said the McKeesport post office has temporarily stopped mail delivery to her and her neighbors, and, she said, she was told that city fire trucks can no longer navigate the partially closed street.
"You put my neighborhood in jeopardy," Siegmund told council on Wednesday. "Now we have no mail and no fire trucks. What are we supposed to do? I was told last October 'we are getting bids.' Then (City Administrator Tom) Maglicco told me 'we're going to get the bids' yesterday. But no one has moved. We've only been waiting 13 months."
Cherepko said the city has been actively trying to stablize McIntosh Drive since the problems developed, including with truckloads of gravel and reclaimed asphalt.
But McKeesport officials needed to have a geotechnical study done before any permanent repairs could be attempted, he said. That work began in November.
"We can’t do something until we know what we’re supposed to do," Cherepko said, adding that he found some of Siegmund's comments "offensive."
As for fire trucks being unable to navigate the street due to the lane restriction, Cherepko and fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said that Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. has a smaller truck that will be dispatched, along with city crews, in the event of an emergency call on McIntosh Drive.
And, Cherepko said, the city will contact the post office to find a solution to the stopped mail delivery.
Siegmund said that mine subsidence has been a problem in the neighborhood in the past. Cherepko said engineers from the state Department of Environmental Protection have been to the site and found no evidence that mine subsidence is responsible for the current problems.
Other McIntosh Drive residents said they're concerned the planned repairs aren't enough. They said that other parts of the street are also cracking and shifting.
"It’s getting to the point where it’s accelerating," resident Gene Benedict said, who showed a series of pictures documenting how the pavement has moved and sunk. "Two weeks ago, it didn’t look the same as it does now," he said. "Maybe the time to act has passed. It may be too late."
Benedict and his wife have temporarily moved their belongings out of their house because they no longer feel safe, he said. Last week, Benedict said, a utility pole snapped, and other utility wires are stretched taut.
"It is a safety concern for all of the residents who live on McIntosh," Benedict said.
Cherepko said the city is aware of other problems along McIntosh Drive, and is doing what it can. But every eight feet of retaining wall will cost the city another $22,000, he said.
"If we did another 600 feet, for instance, we'd be looking at almost $2 million, and we just don't have that kind of money," Cherepko said.
Unusually high rainfall in the Pittsburgh area has left many Western Pennsylvania communities. The Post-Gazette reported last month that Pittsburgh is developing plans to address at least six of the worst landslides at a cost of $8 million.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, state Sen. Jim Brewster, state Rep. Brandon Markosek and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald toured Pitcairn, which also has suffered heavy damage from landslides and flooding.
“The effects of severe rain and unprecedented weather and the ongoing issues with blight we saw today in Pitcairn are not unique,” said Wolf, who is promoting an infrastructure project he called "Restore Pennsylvania."
“These situations exist across the commonwealth and are creating lasting, negative effects on communities, businesses, and residents," Wolf said. "We need an unprecedented plan to make sure Pennsylvania is a leader in the 21st century.”
Cherepko is hopeful that the state will come to the aid of Pitcairn, McKeesport and other municipalities.
"This is a serious issue and it's not just something McKeesport is facing," Cherepko said. "Some of these small towns are to the point were they’re going to have to re-route many of their roads, and they don’t have the money for it.
Hopefully the governor’s office is going to allocate some resources to alleviate some of the problems."
For now, he said, McKeesport is hoping to at least get McIntosh Drive fully reopened. "We're glad to at least be at this stage of the process we're in tonight," Cherepko said.
Jason Togyer is editor of Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published March 07, 2019.