by Jonathan Weaver
Three years ago, a water problem forced the cancellation of Light-Up Kittanning Night.
Now, just three days before the annual event (appropriately dubbed “Christmas Under Construction”), a smooth holiday event might once again be in-danger.
Yesterday afternoon, Robinson Pipe Cleaning crews identified an eight-foot-deep sinkhole under the right-turning lane of South Water Street near the Market Street intersection.
Less than two hours later (shortly after 4PM), PennDOT District 10 Incident Coordinator Michael Shanshala, III closed both northbound lanes before the evening rush of traffic. South Water Street traffic was detoured to turn right onto Jacob Street.
PennDOT District 10 Assistant County Manager Ken Campbell said yesterday the detour will be still in-place this morning, and until a solution or a more-permanent detour is established.
Senate Engineering Project Manager Phil Herman said that solution could come at 2PM this afternoon at an emergency PennDOT meeting. The meeting will be held in Kittanning Borough’s Council Chambers.
He was not necessarily surprised by PennDOT’s decision.
“I think it was probably prudent on their part. Once their people saw the extent of the issue, they made a call based on their decision variables.”
Further tests this morning are not expected to factor into this afternoon’s decision.
In the early 1920’s, the former wooden plank bridge was moved upstream to allow the current bridge to be built. Huge timber and wooden blocks were installed that stabilized the work. When it was completed, the timber was covered up and left intact. Meanwhile, almost 100 years later, most of that wood has decayed.
Armstrong County Tourist Bureau Board Chairman Jack Bennett and Town and Country Transit General Manager Patti Lynn Baker are also expected to attend this afternoon’s meeting to see how long the road closure might remain.
Most of the Town and Country Transit evening bus runs were re-routed due to the street closure.
“We’ll find out what’s going on for Friday night to determine what else is going on at that point to determine what we’ll be able to do as far as service goes,” Baker said. “Typically, every year (during) Light-up Night, all the roads are closed but we need to have a way to get from the north to the south end of town.
“It’s never been an issue because we could just go up Water Street. We need to see what our options are.”
Town and Country bus service runs until 10:45PM weeknights, and often helps transport residents into downtown Kittanning during Light-Up festivities.
“We want to be able to continue our service at our regularly-scheduled times. People use our service to get back-and-forth to work and shop, especially this time of year,” Baker said. “We already noticed the ridership pick up for the Christmas season.”
First Ward Kittanning Borough Councilman David Croyle climbed into the two-foot-wide, four-foot deep trench to see the sinkhole firsthand. The trench led to a hole “about the size of a basketball” that exposed the sinkhole.
“I think it’s a general consensus that there’s no eminent danger. However, you have to always prepare for the worst, and that’s what PennDOT is doing,” Croyle said. “They’re preparing for the worst that could happen so that it doesn’t happen.”
Croyle said a plan of action will be discussed this afternoon, including how long it takes to correct the problem. Based on conversations with crews and engineers, he estimated the closures could remain until at least next week.
Broken lines were also found in the sinkhole by video captured inside the sinkhole, which worried Kittanning Borough Council and Municipal Sewage Authority leaders. It is unknown if the pipes are still in-use.
Smoke dye testing was also performed before the trench was backfilled.
The detour currently in place will route northbound traffic on South Water Street to Jacob Street, then onto South Jefferson Street, bringing traffic back to Market Street. Those motorists wishing to cross the Citizens Bridge may do so by using Market Street.
MORE STORIES ON THIS SUBJECT…
PennDOT Shuts Down Intersection Due to Sink Hole Concerns… Find Out More…
Camera Used to Examine Sink Hole in Kittanning… Read more…
Council to Collect Info About Sink Hole… Full story here…