Residents upset about North Ave. delay

By NANCY WHYTE

Extra chairs needed to be added to the standard audience area of the Emsworth Borough Council room to seat all the Emsworth residents who attended the Nov. 14 council meeting to complain about North Avenue.

North Avenue has been closed to vehicular traffic for weeks due to problems that arose during the road rehabilitation project that was supposed to have been finished in September. With deep ditches gouged on each side and with no gravel covering the slippery mostly-clay and dirt bottom, the road is essentially closed to foot traffic, as well.

Council president Kevin Yurkovich stated that he would explain the current situation and then open the floor for visitor comments. He acknowledged that a number of rumors had been circulating, particularly on social media, and many were false. “No company has gone bankrupt,” he said. “Nor has anyone pulled out of the contract.”

Yurkovich stated that the borough council was truly sorry for the inconveniences caused to residents who typically drive up the avenue from Ohio River Boulevard, but especially to those residents who live on North Avenue and have had to park their vehicles a distance from their homes as well as face difficulties with garbage removal.

The plans for the road repairs, he said, were initiated last year, and both West View Water Authority and Columbia Gas were notified in October of 2017. The current problems are not due to a lack of planning by Emsworth officials, Yurkovich emphasized. Instead, unforeseen problems arose.

Yurkovich stated that prior to the start of the project, on three different occasions, Columbia Gas made test holes on North Avenue. The results of their tests indicated that the gas lines were buried deeply enough and were in adequate condition that they would not be affected by the scheduled roadwork, and thus did not need to be replaced. Yurkovich said that gas lines are generally 18” below the street surface.

However, once the road surface was removed, some of the gas lines were discovered to be only six inches down, and consequently would need to be replaced. Columbia Gas began replacing some lines, but at a much slower pace than anticipated. Since then, the gas company sub-contracted the gas line replacement, with much better results, Yurkovich said.

Unfortunately, weather will now play a large part in determining what comes next for North Avenue, Yurkovich said. Certain minimum temperatures are required to successfully lay asphalt, and sometime in the near future, depending on the weather, the asphalt plants will close until spring.

North Avenue will be open to traffic as soon as possible. Concerning the surface, Yurkovich detailed the “worst case” scenario. If necessary, only the binder layer will be put down now. Such a layer is driveable and can be both salted and plowed. The top coat of asphalt would then be applied in the spring.

Visitor comments covered a variety of aspects. Complaints were heard concerning the difficulties in getting garbage removed. Yurkovich stated that council member Brian Fashian had personally picked up residents' garbage on several occasions because Waste Management employees would not walk up or down the road to get the trash. Dumpsters were scheduled to be placed in several locations, he said.

Another resident expressed frustration that seemingly not much had been accomplished when the weather was nice. At least one resident was annoyed that people had not been given prior notice that the road was going to be torn up and had to move their vehicles with little forewarning. A resident questioned whether Columbia Gas would need to turn off gas service while replacing their lines. And some residents. looking ahead to when the project is completely finished and North Avenue has a new surface, expressed concern that motorists would drive too fast on the improved road, and questioned if speed bumps or a stop sign could be added.

Ohio Township Police Chief Joe Hanny said that after North Avenue reopened, a traffic study could be conducted using a machine that records the speeds of vehicles using the road.

Summarizing the difficulties of the situation, Council member Carolyn Galante assured the residents that “I'm just as frustrated as you are. We (Emsworth Council members) are doing everything we possibly can.”