School district wants road work delayed

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Avella Area School District officials plan to ask state elected officials to intervene with the state Department of Transportation in the hope of postponing work on two state roads until school is done for the year.


Route 844 in Canton Township and Route 50 in Cross Creek Township are each scheduled to close for six to eight weeks this year so smaller bridges on those roads can be replaced with precast box culverts. The two structures are part of a larger contract the state has with C.H. and D. Enterprises.


Work on the structure on Route 844 near the Frazier-Simplex gun club is expected to start in late March or early April, said Dan Headlee, project superintendent for the contractor. Work on Route 50 near County Park Road will begin as soon as the Canton project is completed, likely in late May or early June.


The posted PennDOT detour for both projects uses Routes 50, 18, 844 and 231. Residents are expected to use local roads as a detour.


But Dr. Janell Logue-Belden, superintendent of Avella schools, said the district would prefer if both projects could be done over the summer so as not to affect bus traffic.


“No one is certainly against the improvements, but the timing is not the greatest,” Logue-Belden said Thursday. “We are out the last day of May, so it would be wonderful if they could wait until then to start the work.”


Both road closures would affect the bus schedule. Logue-Belden said the district uses buses from GG&C, which has its garage on Route 844 in Canton. The drivers picking up students off Route 844 to the west of the closure would have to detour around the closed bridge. The Route 50 work would affect students from Western Area Career and Technology Center in Chartiers Township returning from morning classes in time for lunch.


Logue-Belden said she plans to talk with state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, and state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, about asking PennDOT to postpone the work.


“At this point, I’m not sure what we’ll do, but we will sit down and talk with the bus company,” she said. “We will need to get the word out to our parents and students.”


For Canton fire Chief Dave Gump, the closure won’t have too much of an effect.


“It won’t be too bad for us. After all, we are used to detours,” he laughed, making reference to the lengthy detour firefighters have endured for the last several years with the closure of the Caldwell Avenue bridge.


But the same can’t be said for Avella fire Chief Eric Temple. The fire department is in Avella and will have to detour to get to buildings on the opposite side of the closure.


“This will be a big thing for us,” Temple said. “It will take on an additional 8 miles or so to get to the other side.”


Temple will likely enlist help from Mt. Pleasant Township and Slovan fire departments. He also will alert the 911 center to call those departments out as first responders in the event of an emergency between the closure and Route 18.


Boaters and others who take County Park Road to Cross Creek County Park will still be able to access the boat launch and park shelters, although some may have to take a lengthy detour to get to the park.


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