EAST PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The sliding, settling hillside that Route 30 once depended on for support is continuing to sag down the hill towards Electric Avenue. In just the past 24 hours, the crack between the east and westbound lanes has grown from five inches wide to a foot and a half wide and a couple of feet deep.
The height difference between the westbound lanes at the far end of the dip has grown another half foot, and the drop off next to the only open eastbound lane dropped nine inches overnight.
Concrete was brought in to shore up the open lane by forcing the support into voids under the only intact lane left.
All down the hillside dropping off next to the westbound lanes, horizontal cracks are opening up. Some run the length of the slide area, other are a few feet long. The movement brought down a tree onto the westbound lanes while crews were working just a few feet away.
Those workers from Armstrong Drilling have been sending shafts into the dirt below the asphalt taking core samples all the way down to bedrock.
PennDOT Maintenance Operations Engineer Michael Adams, P.E. says, “They are drilling down basically looking at the type of material we’re pulling up and seeing the condition of that material.”
The hope is those samples will help reveal the cause of the sagging roadway. Adams says they’re also using cameras.
“We’re going through the storm pipes we have in the area to check the condition of those pipes to see if we have any separations or any issues where water is infiltrating outside of those pipes,” he said.
There is an urgency to the work because halfway down the hillside is a retaining wall that was installed when Route 30 was built in 1930, and it’s vertically fractured and now leaning forward about a foot.
“We need to find what is actually happening and then we will look to rebuild from that point on,” says Adams.
The key word there is ‘rebuild.’ Adams says the process will not be a simple.
“Most likely the solution will be to reinforce the hillside in one way or another and then rebuild the roadway. We’re going to work our way from the bottom up,” he said.
Reinforcing the hill, digging out the damaged area, backfilling to provide a base for the road, and then rebuilding the road will not be a short process, but Adams says PennDOT is critically aware of what Route 30 means to the 11,000 drivers who use it daily.
“We are working tirelessly to find a solution, to find what the problem is,find a solution to that problem. and get this road open as soon as we can,” he said.
PennDOT will continue to try to keep the single east bound lane open as long as possible.
Adams says, “We’ll eventually look to possibly close it when we do a full repair here. But in the meantime our plan is to keep it open as long as we can.”
The westbound detour remains in effect until further notice.