Construction Communication Confusion Causes Consternation

Typing tremulously about time-consuming traffic tumult. Author apologizes for annoyingly ample alliteration.

If you traverse the greater metropolitan Sewickley area on a regular basis, you already know that there’s a lot of construction going on. This is happening primarily on the valley’s “main drag”, Ohio River Boulevard, but other projects affecting other roadways have had a mildly annoying impact on traffic from time to time. 

Still, on an average workday with average traffic flow, how long should it take for a motorist to travel the roughly 5 miles between the Beaver County line and the intersection of Route 65 and Beaver Road, at the Glen Osborne /Haysville traffic light? What would you consider to be a minimum reasonable time to accomplish this, whether you took Beaver or the Boulevard?

My wife and I both met with significant challenges last Friday afternoon when trying to drive through this area. Leslie, trying to get to her job in Robinson, elected to take Beaver to get past the usual bottleneck at the SewickleyBridge, on her way to access Interstate 79 at Glenfield

It took her 22 minutes to get from Leetsdale to the Haysville light. That’s an average speed of a little over 12 miles per hour. Her progress, while already impacted by school traffic, was impeded further by the closure of Beaver Road near Osborne Elementary School. 

I spoke with her while she was on the road, and she expressed frustration with not knowing about the closure. I was kind of surprised myself. With her information in hand I then set out for Neville Island via Route 65, perhaps hoping against hope to get through the bridge backup in time to make it to my destination within 30 minutes.

Fat chance of that. 

Another thing we already know is that living here means road construction – and lots of it. Cursing PennDOT under one’s breath likely rivals fantasy football, eating, and sex as something people do most around here when they’re not working or sleeping. Even I succumbed to this on Saturday afternoon, when a backup for scheduled construction on Route 28 south extended my commute home by a little over an hour.

I freely admit that “Penndot sucks” appeared on my Facebook page. I apologize for that.

I really didn’t have a valid beef about this, however, because I knew about the closure ahead of time. I just thought I’d give it a try anyway, and couldn’t get off of the ramp into Etna in time to circumvent it. 

As much as we can’t stand having to deal with all of this construction, at least PennDOT does attempt to keep the general public and local officials apprised of their plans, even if their timing is less than fortuitous. Witness the surprisingly candid comments of Sewickley Manager Kevin Flannery when work was announced to pave the bridge approach during the weekend of the village’s Harvest Festival.

While the work was later postponed until after the event, it did happen last weekend, and by all accounts was the mess that everyone had anticipated. This coming weekend brings the ‘overnight’ paving of Route 65 through the heart of Sewickley. Based on the reported plans for traffic management, going across Sewickley Heights (Merriman Road to Scaife to Fern Hollow to Little Sewickley Creek) to get around sounds attractive by comparison.

Still, the efforts by PennDOT District 11 and its PIO, Jim Struzzi, need to be recognized for the timely and comprehensive way that they get the word out about upcoming projects, so that commuters and shoppers alike can prepare and plan for what’s coming.

Which leads us back to that pesky closure of Beaver Road in Glen Osborne. 

It was distressing to me not to have had any inkling of this closure. I follow the local media rather closely, and could find nothing announcing the closure on any of those websites, or the sites for Sewickley and Glen Osborne municipal government. The only online mention that I could find was on the Quaker Valley School District’s site, with an alert for Osborne Elementary parents. 

So at the beginning of this week I tried searching for answers. As the project that is closing the road is part of maintenance to water and sewer lines that are part of Sewickley Borough‘s system, I contacted Borough Manager Kevin Flannery. He stated that to the best of his knowledge, Glen Osborne Mayor William Boswell had sent a letter to all borough residents advising them of the closure. 

So those who live or go to school in Glen Osborne had received some sort of official notification about the closure. What about the rest of us?

I posed that question to Glen Osborne Borough Secretary Diane Vierling, whose office sits in the Sewickley Borough Building. She stated that all public notification was bring coordinated by the Sewickley Police Department. Reached on Monday afternoon, Police Capt. Richard Manko stated that to his knowledge the department had “made every effort” to convey ample information to the public, including signage in the business district directing motorists to use Chestnut Street to access Route 65. He could not confirm if any press release had been issued regarding the closure.

At that point I could still not locate any media coverage. Sewickley Patch Editor Larissa Dudkiewicz, along with office staff at the Sewickley Herald, could not recall a release passing through their in-boxes.

It was therefore not surprising to see the closure covered by Patch on Tuesday, and in today’s Herald, especially when both outlets conveyed that the work will impact Beaver Road for several months. 

Months.  

There is no doubt in my mind that this construction is appropriate and necessary to maintain critical infrastructure. Is it therefore reasonable to assume that the work had been planned for some time, and that motorists using this stretch of Beaver Road would like to have known this before the project commenced? 

Can government at all levels assure that information such as this, affecting the general traveling public for a lengthy period, can be conveyed in advance, as other government entities have made a part of their routine operations?

Let’s hope so. In the meantime, Godspeed in finding a way to get there from here.  

                                                                  
The opinions expressed in this weblog are solely my own as an individual and private citizen, and do not represent the opinion or policy of my family, my employer, or any other private or public entity.

(Note to Leetsdale Borough employees – feel free to make use of the above text if you need to.)
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