EAST PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 30 closed in East Pittsburgh starting Friday afternoon.
It just keeps moving and slipping under gravity’s pull.
“We’ve definitely got some additional movement. It has not only dropped vertically, but it’s also moved laterally as well, so the whole hillside is continuing to move,” says PennDOT Maintenance Operation Engineer Michael Adams, P.E.
KDKA’s Amy Wadas Reports:
“It dropped another six to eight inches [Friday] morning,” says PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni.
So the decision was made to shut off the eastbound traffic, totally closing Route 30 through East Pittsburgh.
“Because we don’t want any of the traveling public on this section of road, because we’re not sure what’s causing the slippage and the drop,” Adams said.
The biggest concern is the retaining wall halfway down the hillside that was constructed with the road in 1930 to hold up the dirt that the road sits on. The wall is vertically fractured and has been pushed out about three feet.
“We are concerned about that retaining wall because of the location of the apartment complex to the retaining wall,” Moon-Sirianni says. “We are going to be excavating right now behind the wall to remove the pressure on the wall to try and prevent failure.”
So the residents of the buildings closest to the retaining walls have been evacuated to area hotels.
Adams says the pipes and culverts in the area have all been checked and exonerated of any blame for the sinking road. He says it’s a rain-fueled landslide.
“[It’s] a little bit bigger than a normal landslide,” he said. “The normal ones we are used to are a couple hundred feet. This is much larger width and much deeper than originally anticipated,” he said.
Contractors with First Light will begin excavating the hillside in hopes of getting that pressure off that wall.
“That’s what we’re most concerned about — get the pressure off that wall,” Adams said.
Could the hillside completely collapse?
“It’s a risk, it’s absolutely a risk and that’s what we deal with on a daily basis with these landslides,” Adams said.
As the hillside was snapping trees and twigs, further indicating its movement, the cracks and splits in the asphalt and concrete continue to widen. The contractor estimates they will remove about 23,000 cubic yards of dirt before the rebuilding can begin. That process will start with shoring up the hillside and then filling it up to the road level. Then, a 300-foot section of the road will have to be rebuilt.
“This is gonna be a long-term closure, not a short-term by any means,” says Adams.
Define long term?
“It’s going to take a considerable amount of time,” he said.
Until then, 11,000 drivers every morning and 12,250 every afternoon will be forced to detour or find an alternative route.
“This is terrible. McKeesport Bridge is down, now 30 is down. I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is crazy,” one driver said.
“It’s crazy. We didn’t know when we left work they were going to close the road going out. So it’s pretty insane that we got here, then all of a sudden, were stuck,” another driver said.
“I think it’s a mess. I think they need to get it fixed up fast,” said one driver. “I’ll probably find a different way.”
Eastbound drivers can follow the posted detour from Electric Avenue in North Braddock:
• From eastbound Route 30, all traffic will take the ramp to Electric Avenue toward East Pittsburgh/Turtle Creek
• Turn right onto Braddock Avenue
• Turn left onto East Pittsburgh McKeesport Boulevard
• Turn left onto Navy-Marine Corp Way
• Turn right onto eastbound Route 30
• End detour
Contractors went home for the night late Friday, but they will be working around the clock starting at 7 a.m. Saturday to begin fixing the problem.