Wilmerding road closure 'long term or permanent'

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Motorists who take Ice Plant Hill Road have been scrambling for detours since a Jan. 15 landslide shut down the street near the Wilmerding YMCA.

“It’s going to be long term or permanent,” Stephen Shurgot, Wilmerding Borough Council president, said about the closure. “There’s no short-term fix.”

The road is crucial from an emergency services standpoint, he said.

“It’s the most direct route for our police department,” Mr. Shurgot explained. “There’s a two- to three-minute delay getting into town on emergencies.”

Complicating matters is a bridge replacement project that has part of Greensburg Pike, which connects Wilmerding with Turtle Creek and key shopping areas, closed to traffic. The new span is expected to open in November, according to the Allegheny County Department of Public Works.

As for Ice Plant Hill Road, borough officials met with Steven Johnson, county public works director, about the possibility of opening it again.

“He estimated a permanent fix would be about $1 million,” Mr. Shurgots said, with an estimated contribution from Wilmerding of 20 percent.

The borough, which has about 2,100 people living in less than half a square mile, would be unable to afford such an expense.

“Unless we get some help, we won’t be able to open that road,” explained Mr. Shurgots.

When a similar situation occurred on Ice Plant Hill Road in the 1990s, a federal project involving National Guard personnel resulted in a temporary fix.

“It was expected to last 15 years or so, and it lasted 17,” Mr. Shurgots said.

He has spoken with U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale, and Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, about the possibility of federal funding to help open the road again. Mr. Doyle was instrumental in launching the 1997 project.

If the borough were to receive a grant, the money wouldn’t be available until 2016,” according to Mr. Shurgots.

In the meantime, a soil analysis was conducted this week at the site of the landslide in preparation for future repair efforts.

Former borough mayor Dominic Parisi was on borough council when the road was closed during the 1990s, and he compliments the efforts of today's council members to get the street opened again.

“That is a very important access to and from Wilmerding,” he said, also citing the difficulties caused by the Greensburg Pike project. “That’s another traffic hindrance.”

Ice Plant Hill Road represents the most direct route between Wilmerding and East McKeesport, through North Versailles Township. An alternative is to take the relatively roundabout path of Fifth Avenue.

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