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EAST PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pushing an excavator or bulldozer down the loose dirt of a landslide at a 50-degree angle is not work for the faint of heart. Bob Bucher, Pat Leonard and Bob Burten were running the big gear for Allison Park Contractors on Tuesday, pushing dirt to increase the level of safety and stability at the Route 30 collapse site.
Their expertise is their protection.
Gov. Tom Wolf watched them work, saying, “That’s courageous stuff that they are doing right now, and I was just amazed.”
Arriving where Route 30 used to be in East Pittsburgh, the governor looked down from the top.
“It was scary, it really is scary that something like that could happen,” he said. “The amount of force and the impact it had on the homes and the lives of the people down here.”
Since it was a state retaining wall and road that came down, Gov. Wolf says the state will make the area whole.
“There are always financial constraints, but we’re not looking at that, we’re looking at what it takes to get it done,” he said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the county is working with the displaced residents to make sure they have what they need and everyone is anxious to restore Route 30.
He said, “30,000 people that use this to get in to work and school, it’s a lifeline for commuters here.”
Engineers are already working on a design and contractors will have only a few days to get their bids in to win the contract. PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni says they are not wasting any time.
“We’re hoping a few weeks, a month, to get a contractor on board” and the reconstruction underway, she said.
Meanwhile, the millions of dollars it will cost to rebuild the hillside, restore Route 30, and relocate the residents whose homes were destroyed, is a huge price-tag. Enough that it may put the area into a level of losses from landslides since Feb. 15, that it could qualify for federal disaster relief.
Allegheny County Emergency Management Chief Matt Brown says, “We believe we can present that now and we’re working with PEMA to do that.”
PEMA Director Rick Flynn who accompanied the governor to the site added, “If we make a determination that we’re going to meet those [federal] thresholds, the governor will go ahead and send a letter to the president.”
Without the massive cost of the Route 30 slide, the area would probably be well short of the threshold, but Gov. Wolf points out, “No one in Commonwealth or anyone in emergency management would characterize that as a victory of any sorts, the fact that people had to go through this is just tragic.”
PennDOT’s current estimate of returning traffic to Route 30 is a cautious projection of two to three months, or mid- to late-summer.
Gov. Wolf cautions, “We’ve got to do it right, and we are going to do it right, and it won’t happen in a few days.”