North Huntingdon officials face a tab of more than $500,000 in order to stabilize a hillside that slid this spring and collapsed a section of roadway.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected a state request for a disaster declaration regarding flooding and landslides th at caused an estimated $22 million in damages in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, leaving the township ineligible for federal aid for stabilizing the hillside below Haywood Road and repairing two sections of the road that collapsed, said Bob Robinson, a consulting engineer. The work could cost $400,000 to $600,000, Robinson told township commissioners.
“That’s pretty tough on the budget,” said Jeff Silka, township manager.
Rather than taking money from the township’s capital reserves, which would be “a substantial hit,” Silka suggested that North Huntingdon apply for a PennDOT no-interest loan that would be repaid over 10 years. Commissioners would have to approve the expenditure.
Gov. Tom Wolf this month vowed to appeal FEMA’s decision not to declare a major disaster. FEMA chose to look at the continuous string of severe weather from February through April as separate incidents, none of which it reported met the threshold for a declaration, Wolf said. The federal agency, however, ignored the fact that these weather events were relentless, with damage and costs escalating with each subsequent storm, the governor said.
The two landslides that restricted traffic to one lane in two sections of Haywood Lane occurred in late February and early March, said Robinson, an engineer with KLH Engineers Inc. of Robinson. The first landslide was about 100 feet long and a second one has grown, Robinson said. They are about 500 feet apart, he said.
A third landslide along Haywood Road, above Route 993, closed a portion of Route 993 for several hours on June 11. That slide occurred after heavy storms and flooding on June 10.
“The whole slope is very marginal, with open fissures,” Robinson said, adding that he hopes the landslide repairs can be done this fall.
Dan Kowalski said West Penn Power pulled the electric meter at his Haywood Road house because the landslide moved a utility pole across the street.
“It’s getting worse and worse,” Kowalski said of the landslide.
To stabilize the hillside, “soldier beams” would be drilled into bedrock and attached to concrete lagging to hold the hill in place.
After taking core samples of the hillside, which helped determine the depth of the bedrock, the next step would be to design the beams and pilings needed, Robinson said.
Silka said it would be possible to close the roadway and reroute traffic, but there are no viable options for having emergency vehicles use the road to reach the homes affected by the slide.
Stabilizing two other roadways affected by landslides will cost far less money, Robinson said. Stabilizing a slide that affected Lighthouse Lane will cost about $7,500 and doing work on Mahaffey Hill Road will cost close to $20,000.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]