McArdle Roadway trees were cleared in '08, '09
A public works crew uses an excavator to push part of the hillside down onto McArdle Roadway in January.
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Documents released Wednesday by the City of Pittsburgh show that trees were removed in 2008 and 2009 from the area above McArdle Roadway, which has been closed since January because of a landslide.
The impact of tree removal has been a matter of speculation since the landslide Jan. 9. Although stumps were found at the site, public works director Rob Kaczorowski said he couldn't recall any significant tree removal being authorized on Mount Washington.
Documents released in response to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Right-to-Know request show that trees were removed in summer 2008 and summer 2009, while Mr. Kaczorowski worked for the department but before he became director.
The records don't reflect how many trees were removed, but the 2009 work involved multiple contractors. In one project document, contractors were told to remove trees from Grandview Avenue "down to McArdle Roadway."
Some residents have blamed the landslide on tree removal, but city operations director Duane Ashley, who oversees the public works department, on Wednesday downplayed that activity. Like Mr. Kaczorowski, Mr. Ashley blamed water runoff for the slide.
"We know there's significant runoff up there," he said, adding that some water may come from old coal mines.
The stretch of McArdle between the Liberty Bridge and Grandview is expected to reopen before the end of the month, Mr. Ashley said. R&B Contracting and Excavation in Homestead is building a retaining wall as a defense against future slides. In all, slide cleanup and wall construction will cost about $700,000.
"It's almost done. It's beautiful," Mr. Ashley said of the wall.
On Wednesday, wall construction began affecting traffic on Grandview, too. The stretch between Bertha Street and McArdle will be reduced to one alternating lane from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for about two weeks. Flag-bearers will direct traffic.
In response to the Right-to-Know request, the city provided a traffic advisory indicating that McArdle from the Liberty Bridge to Grandview was set for closure from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 1, 2008, for removal of "invasive tree species from the slope below Grandview." No other documents pertaining to that project were provided.
However, the city provided numerous documents about the 2009 project, which was performed by various contractors. One work area ranged from the Monongahela Incline to 219 Grandview and another from 219 Grandview to 249 Grandview. In project documents, contractors were advised to station themselves on McArdle and work up the hillside. The city, contractors were told, would close the road for them.
The city later issued a traffic advisory saying that the stretch of McArdle from the Liberty Bridge to Grandview would be closed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a six-day period beginning Aug. 10, 2009.
First Published 2012-03-07 23:07:01