HARRISON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — On a curve of Saxonburg Road in Harrison Township, the side of the road above Little Bull Creek is sliding away to the creek. Guide rail posts hang from the steel of the guide rail almost completely exposed.
In four separate areas, the road is caving in.
PennDOT’s Dean Poletti says it’s the curse of this region.
“A lot of our roads are built on steep hillsides, so it can really occur in a lot of different areas,” he said.
PennDOT is far from the only victim.
The railroad tracks behind Station Square got hit again, closing one of the two busy tracks at the base of Mt. Washington.
Western Pennsylvania slides number in the hundreds this winter. The most dramatic the slide took out a home at the base of Greenleaf Street.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says, “We can’t stop them, but we can become a little smarter, identifying where those areas are and lessen the impact.”
In many cases, its runoff from rain and melting snow that seeps down to the red clay below the surface and creates a slip-n-slide effect for the topsoil and trees above to ride to where gravity will take them.
PennDOT’s Poletti says, “Its difficult to prevent them from occurring, but if you get the water away from locations, to get the soil to stay dry, that’s the way to prevent it.”
Closing roads, for sometimes years, while the eroded area is redesigned, reinforced and rebuilt can be a terrible inconvenience to drivers. But loosing a home to a slide is nothing short of heartbreaking, and insurance doesn’t cover the loss.
Mayor Peduto is empathetic. He says, “We can look to purchase properties, turn them into greenways, offer people temporary housing and settle lawsuits when we know it’s the fault of the city.”
No matter where the slide occurs, they are frustrating because they are so unpredictable, and those who see the losses would like to stop them from happening in the first place.
Kilbuck Township Manager Harry Dilmore says, “If there was a way to predict where they would happen, that would be terrific, but that’s not the case. I wish we knew ahead of time, maybe we could do something, but no, most of it is reaction.”
While the rain may clear in a day or so, the threat will remain. As the water makes its way into the subsurface and a slide could occur anywhere and at anytime.