like it or not…construction ahead

Constituents have been complaining to state Sen. Matt Smith about the poor condition of Castle Shannon Boulevard since he first ran for office back in 2006, Smith says. Smith understood their concerns, as he can see the deteriorating brick and poor drainage conditions first-hand from his local office at 319 Castle Shannon Boulevard.

Last year, thanks in large part to Smith, PennDOT approved a $3.2 million project to resurface the state-owned street. The money was made possible through Pennsylvania Act 89, a bill enacted last year that calls for more than $2.3 billion to upgrade Pennsylvania’s transportation system, including state and local roads and bridges, public transportation and turnpike expansion projects.

Smith says Act 89 will bring significant improvements to many South Hills neighborhoods. “Pennsylvania was falling behind in infrastructure upkeep,” he says. “One of the core functions of government is to provide a safe infrastructure.”  He describes the Castle Shannon Boulevard project as “just a general upgrade for the whole road.”

Aging infrastructure and tight government budgets can be  a dangerous combination.  Mt. Lebanon, like communities all over the country, is trying to get ahead of the game.
Aging infrastructure and tight government budgets can be a bad combination.
Mt. Lebanon, like all communities, is trying to get ahead of the game.

Unlike many of the community’s nearly 12 miles of brick streets, Castle Shannon Boulevard is steep and winding in some places. Bricks are buckling or missing; it is slippery when wet, and the speed and volume of the traffic makes it very noisy.

Resurfacing the road involves replacing the bricks with asphalt. Also included in the scope of work are curbs cuts to bring the road into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and traffic signal upgrades at Scott Road and Sunset Drive. New storm water inlets and the new slope of the road following the resurfacing will significantly improve storm water drainage.

Some residents are concerned that losing any brick street compromises Mt. Lebanon’s historic character, but redoing Castle Shannon Boulevard in brick proved unworkable for PennDOT because of the cost, the traffic patterns and the department’s general protocols. Because Castle Shannon Boulevard is historic, however, the state requires PennDOT to  “mitigate,” providing something in return for the historic value that may be diminished.

The mitigation plan, which Mt. Lebanon’s municipal staff and the Mt. Lebanon’s Historic Preservation Board were consulted about, calls for PennDOT to pay for a consultant to devise a maintenance/replacement plan for all brick streets in Mt. Lebanon. The plan calls for mapping the streets, providing overlays that show the surrounding architecture, structural conditions, historic significance, and utilities.

“PennDOT has been very accommodating with other brick streets in Mt. Lebanon,” Smith says.

Brick streets will be evaluated for drainage issues, assumed base condition, rideability and the extent of concrete or asphalt patching that has been done. Streets within Mt. Lebanon’s National Register district will receive higher priority for attention, followed by those that adjoin the district. Streets farther removed will be lower priority. Once all the mapping is complete, a list of streets that are candidates for restoration or preservation will be prepared.

Included in the plan will be estimated cost ranges for restoration, rehabilitation and repaving, either with brick, concrete or asphalt. Decisions about which way to go could be challenging in the future; restoring a brick street can cost up to three times as much as repaving it in asphalt, but brick streets typically last commensurately longer.

Smith is confident that in the case of Castle Shannon Boulevard, the path chosen is the right one—even though it will involve a good deal of inconvenience for several months. “The primary aims are safety, and storm water management,” he says. “I think when people see what we have when it’s all done, they’ll see that the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.”

In addition to the Castle Shannon Boulevard project, Mt. Lebanon will be the scene for may other construction and renovation projects this year.

NORTH AND SOUTH PARKING GARAGES Work on the two public parking garages on Washington Road began last summer, following an extensive 2013 report from Atlantic Engineering Services on the repairs that were needed. Repairs in both garages are being made to the beams, columns and decks, and at the South Garage, to the cathode protection system that reinforces the concrete.

Last year, contractors completed work on the second, third and fourth floors of the South Garage. The final phase of the project began last month, causing the first two floors of the garage to be closed. Drivers still enter the garage from Washington Road but must exit on the third floor, where the cashier is temporarily located, and follow Municipal Way down to Florida Avenue. The elevator from the third floor to the Washington Road exit will operate throughout the work.  Pedestrians who use the garage to access Washington Road can enter from the stairway off Municipal Way and take the elevator to the sixth floor walkway.

The South Garage repairs should conclude by the beginning of July, says Mark Quealy, parking enforcement supervisor. Once the South Garage repairs are completed, the contractor, Nathan Engineering, will shift to the North Garage. The work at the North Garage, which, at 21 is less than half the age of the 50-year-old South Garage, will be neither as extensive nor as disruptive. There will be some disruption in traffic patterns, but entrance and exit patterns will be unchanged. Permit holders have been offered off-street parking permits for use if either garage is filled. Quealy expects the North Garage project to conclude by late September.

SIDEWALKS Sidewalks in the Beverly Road business district will be replaced this summer with new concrete. The $186,376 project was made possible by a $125,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, designed to improve infrastructure in order to boost economic development. Along with new sidewalks, Beverly is getting new benches, trash cans, and new heads and LED lights for the street lamps. The municipality will contribute the remaining $75,000 to the grant to see the project through. All businesses will remain open during the work.

Safe Walking: Contractors are repairing sidewalks all along Washington Road this summer. The crumbling sidewalk in front of the municipal building has been replaced (below). Mt. Lebanon Inspection Office has told several commercial property owners they need to fix their damaged sidewalks and has asked PennDOT to address the curb and sidewalk problems at the traffic light just beyond where these men are working.
Safe Walking: Contractors are repairing sidewalks all along Washington Road this summer. The crumbling sidewalk in front of the municipal building has been replaced (below). Mt. Lebanon Inspection Office has told several commercial property owners they need to fix their damaged sidewalks and has asked PennDOT to address the curb and sidewalk problems at the traffic light just beyond where these men are working.

Sidewalk work on parts of Washington Road began in April, when the municipality replaced portions of the sidewalk in front of the municipal building. Work will continue in the business district throughout the summer, as the Inspection Office has sent letters to several commercial busineses indicating that they must repair damaged sidewalks in front of their properties. The public works department also is working with PennDOT to see that the crumbling sidewalk and handicapped ramp across from Alfred Street, which the state installed just two years ago, is replaced.

Residential sidewalk repair will take place on Circle Drive, Connecting Road, Crestvue Manor Drive, Lebanon Hills Drive, Lynn Haven Drive, Main Entrance Drive, Mt. Lebanon Boulevard, Outlook Drive, Park Entrance Drive, Rock Haven Lane, Rocklynn Place, St. Clair Drive and Washington Road. The municipality will pay to replace sidewalk slabs damaged by municipal tree roots. Property owners will be responsible for replacing slabs that have deteriorated because of age or other reasons. Owners may choose their own contractors, or the municipality will do the repair and bill the owner.  Property owners have been  notified of this process by letter.

STREETS Mt. Lebanon uses the software program Pavement View Plus to streamline the decision-making process about which roads to repair and reconstruct. A pavement management system determines the most cost-effective ways and times to repair streets. Every stretch of Mt. Lebanon’s 88 miles of roads has a baseline rating in the program’s Overall Condition Index (OCI). The index considers the type of street—arterial (main roads such as Bower Hill), collectors (connect arterials to residential streets), residential streets, and dead ends or culs-de-sac. The index also notes a road’s repair/reconstruction history and what the road is made of—concrete, asphalt or brick. Each defect in the pavement receives a numerical value, which is subtracted from 100 to arrive at the OCI number. A score of 85 to 100 means a street doesn’t need repair; 60 to 84 calls for minor repairs; 45 to 59 requires major repairs, and an OCI below 45 means that sections need major repairs or reconstruction.

Reconstructing a street means excavating all of the layers of the road and rebuilding it with 6 inches of stone, followed by a 5- to 8-inch asphalt base, and topped with two 1 1/2-inch layers of pavement. Mill and overlay, or resurfacing, is a major but less expensive, less extensive repair process that extends a street’s useful life. The scope of improvements includes spot curb repair and removing and replacing 3 inches of bituminous material.

The various construction projects around town this summer will result in traffic delays and detours. A good way to keep abreast of the projects’ developments is to sign up for LeboALERTs, Mt. Lebanon’s free web-based notification system. You can receive LeboALERTs in 13 categories, including traffic, cancellations and closures, and special events. Sign up for as many categories as you want; change your preferences any time. If you need help registering for this free service, call the public information office, 412-343-3407. And trite as it sounds, as construction season continues, remember: Short-term pain for long-term gain. Thanks for your patience.

Streets scheduled for resurfacing:

Arrowood Drive      (1280 to 1340)
Crescent Drive        (Woodhaven to Inglewood)
Dillon Drive             (Carleton Drive to 128 Dillon)
Elm Spring Road      (Valleyview Road to 832 Elm Spring)
Maplewood Drive    (Arrowood to Pinewood)
Oakwood Drive       (Sunridge to Vallimont)
Old Hickory Road    (Oak Park Place to 888 Old Hickory)
Ridgefield Avenue   (North Meadowcroft to Twin Hills)
Ridgeview Drive      (Woodland to Hoodridge
Robb Hollow Road   (Larchdale to Bower Hill)

construction-signStreets scheduled for resurfacing:

Anawanda Avenue  (402 Anawanda to Castle Shannon)
Cedar Boulevard     (Beadling to Lindendale)
Florida Avenue       (842 Florida to Lebanon)
Larchmont Road      (Osage to Pinetree)
Macarthur Drive      (Woodland to 841 Macarthur)
Vee Lynn Drive




Photography by Rob Papke