Brutal winter leaves roads, budgets in rough shape

April 8, 2014
The deteriorating road surface on West Maiden Street in Washington is just one city street in need of immediate attention after this winter’s severe weather. Other municipalities are also seeing more road damage than usual this spring. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Winter’s deep freeze may finally be over, but it’s left roads throughout Washington and Greene counties in rough shape.

Ken Westcott, councilman and director of public works for the city of Washington, said winter really took a toll on the city’s streets. Westcott blames the constant cold temperatures and plowing.

“It’s not good,” Westcott said. “We are coming up with a game plan. A sizeable amount of our paving budget went to salt and overtime … We are going to be selective on how we spend our money this summer.”

Two roads in need of dire tender, loving care that came to Westcott’s mind were Allison Avenue and Maiden Street. He said these and others in bad shape will be taken care of first.

“Every street will be addressed,” he said. “We are just not yet sure to what degree.”

Jim Reedy, Burgettstown council president and street supervisor, said the borough is in a similar position.

“This was the hardest winter we’ve seen in years,” he said. “We really took a beating.”

While Reedy said road maintenance is a “constant effort,” in Burgettstown, the road department is creating a priority list.

“We are working on a very limited budget,” he said. “And the budget got even tighter with the weather. We will attempt to do as much as possible.”

Reedy couldn’t think of any particular road that needs immediate attention, but said that the state Department of Transportation was lending a helping hand.

“We are fortunate because PennDOT is doing work on Route 18 from McDonald to Atlasburg,” he said. “That’s a big plus for us.”

Jay Ofsanik, PennDOT spokesman, said road crews were busy fixing an “above normal” amount of potholes throughout both counties. Ofsanik said hot patch mix – in which the asphalt hardens once it has cooled – is not yet available.

“The local plants that make (it) just opened,” he said.

Peters Township public works director Peter Overcashier said damage to the township’s roads was caused by moisture on the ground and frigid temperatures. He said plenty of potholes have popped up.

“We are waiting for the asphalt plants to get in gear,” he said. “We expect to start by the middle of the month.”

Overcashier said road crews used roughly 600 tons of cold mix, a type of asphalt that doesn’t harden right away and is used during cold weather, since the beginning of March. But it’s only a temporary fix.

“We are trying to limit the damage to vehicles,” he said. “We expect to go back over (the streets) once the weather breaks.”

Overcashier said the township’s budget was also affected this winter.

“There were more expenses than anticipated for road repairs,” he said.

As a result, two paving projects – Hays and Center Church roads – may have to wait until next year.

Though this is his first year on the job, Waynesburg Borough manager Mike Simms said he hasn’t noticed borough roads being in any worse shape this year than they were in previous years.

So far this year, he said, he has received only one complaint about potholes.

The borough paved a number of its worst streets last summer and those have held up well during the winter, he said. On other streets some potholes have appeared. “When it freezes and thaws, that’s what you get, potholes,” he said.

But Center Township, Greene County, roads took a beating this winter. “Probably moreso than it has been in past years,” said Supervisor Seann McCollum. “The constant plowing has been very hard on sections of the road we tarred and chipped last year.”

In addition, the many freeze and thaw cycles did their part to contribute to potholes on roads throughout the township, McCollum said. Center Township maintains almost 80 miles of roads, the most of any township in Greene County.

“All of them need work,” McCollum said. And it will take a lot of work to get the roads back in shape once it dries out enough for township crews to begin making the repairs, he said.

In the meantime, road crews are asking residents to be patient. Westcott reminded everyone to think back to the severe winter.

“Everybody is aware of the winter we had,” he said. “We are just asking people to be patient. Things will get taken care of.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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