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Fight On to Keep Brick Street in Regent Square

By Alyssa Karas
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Signs posted along Macon Avenue in Regent Square detail the residents' fight to keep their brick roads from being paved over by the water company. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

The clusters of bright orange cones on Macon Avenue in Regent Square alert motorists and pedestrians of giant holes in the yellow-brick road.

But the cones are warning signs of a battle brewing between Swissvale residents and a water company.

When Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority replaces the water line in the 1400 block of Macon Avenue, the company intends to remove the bricks then pave the street with asphalt. But many residents are adamant that the brick street be restored, and plan to protest the water authority’s decision at the council meeting at 7 p.m. today.

“It will be a fight (with water authority officials) if it has to be,” said Swissvale Borough Council President David Petrarca. “(Residents) want brick. They do not want asphalt. It’s always that way.”

Much of the debate centers on cost. Petrarca said water authority officials put an estimated $270,000 price tag on the project. This includes removing the brick, replacing the main water line and all lateral lines to homes, putting down a new base then paving with asphalt.

The water authority did not provide an estimate for replacing the bricks on the nearly 100-year-old streets, Petrarca said. Brick would be more expensive in the short-run but require less maintenance over time, borough officials said. Water authority Manager Anthony Russo Jr. declined to comment.

The water authority may run into some legal roadblocks. According to Swissvale Solicitor Bob McTiernan, the borough has an ordinance that states materials used to replace a street surface must be of the same covering and the same grade as the originals.

Residents and council members said the bricks keep property values up, make the streets safer and add to the neighborhood’s charm.

“I love this neighborhood,” said resident Ann Walston, 62. “One of the most beautiful things about it is the streets and the trees.”

The issue began after a water main break on June 22 caused sinkholes to cave in. When at least one sinkhole was patched with asphalt, residents took notice, Webber said. Residents began organizing meetings and writing letters to council members and the mayor.

Other communities are facing similar problems. In Aspinwall, Borough Manager Ed Warchol has grappled with what to do about a worn-out brick road for more than a year.

“The problem is the expense,” Warchol said. “It’s astronomical. It keeps the quaintness of everything, but I don’t have the money.” However, it’s important to keep in mind what the community wants, he said.

Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said the Regent Square streets could qualify for landmark status. A structure must be at least 50 years old and designed with distinction, Ziegler said.

“I just hope they find a way to keep these bricks that contribute to the uniqueness of this marvelous neighborhood,” he said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633