PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — So much rain, so much mud, and so many slides. There have been so many slides this year, the area has had slides on top of slides.
PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni says the district has on its books “roughly around 80 [landslides] district-wide between Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.”
About half of those slides have happened this year; the rest have been oozing for attention for some time.
“We only budget about $6 million to repair landslides. The cost to fix all of them at this point in time is over $50 million. About $40 million of that is in Allegheny County alone,” Moon-Sirianni said.
That figure does not include the most dramatic slide of the past year, the collapse of Route 30 in East Liberty.
PennDOT is still waiting and hoping Emergency Federal Highway Dollars will come through to help cover the $12 million cost of that work.
Meanwhile, the engineers at District 11 are doing the planning for slide repairs next year. How many slides can they fix?
“I’d say six to nine that we’re looking to do next year,” Moon-Siranni said.
The district’s top priority at the moment is the Route 68 slide just west of Midland in Beaver County. The slide has forced the closure of the lane on the river side of the road and voids up to eight feet deep have washed out under the road.
“That has an 18 mile detour and is one of the direct routes to and from the nuclear power plant and other businesses in that region,” Moon-Sirianni said.
But 68, like all the other slides, must compete for money from the same pot that fixes bridges and paves roads.
“So you’re juggling what structurally deficient bridge do you fix, what pothole ridden road do you pave, or what landslide do you fix?” Moon-Sirianni said.
PennDOT uses a triage method to prioritize the landslide repairs. It truly is a case of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”
“Traffic, obviously, something like high traffic road will go first. A high truck route, we try to get programmed obviously,” Moon-Sirianni said.
And in some cases, she says, “We’re talking about possibly cul-de-sacing off those roads if they have access from another direction. We can’t spend $10 million, $20 million on a road that maybe only has 200 cars a day.”
With every rain event, the priority list can change as slides that weren’t pressing become emergencies. Every time that happens another slide gets leapfrogged and forced to wait, in some cases years. Simply put, Moon-Sirianni says they must wait “until money becomes available.”