The proposed $30 million reshaping of Baldwin Street and Bower Hill Road would almost certainly reduce flooding in Bridgeville. But it would also be hugely expensive and involve property acquisitions, rerouting a creek, rebuilding roads, and moving tons of earth. In other words—it’s not an immediate solution to the borough’s flooding problem.
In the meantime, Bridgeville officials have been busy pursuing numerous smaller projects that could contribute to the flood alleviation effort.
At last month’s planning commission meeting, borough council president Mike Tolmer outlined some of the actions that Bridgeville hopes to take to reduce flood damage:
Ask Upper St. Clair to clean their portion McLaughlin Creek
“Our borough workers maintain our creek beds,” Tolmer said. “We get the permission of property owners to go in and move debris—any types of lumber, trees, whatever is in there—so whenever there is a flood event it doesn’t turn into a dam. You go up McLaughlin past Bridgeville and you look in the creek bed and you’ll see all kinds of debris. So we’d like Upper St. Clair to clean their creek.”
Turn McLaughlin Park’s ball field into a retention pod
Bridgeville has applied for a permit to install a “trash trap” device near the bend of McLaughlin Creek that would catch incoming debris. The water would then overflow onto what it now the baseball field at McLaughlin Park.
Redesign the bridge crossing McLaughlin Creek
The bridge linking Bower Hill Road to McLaughlin Run Road becomes a dam during heavy rain events. Debris floating downstream clogs up beneath the bridge, causing massive water build-up.
“We know the bridge is functional and it’s not going to break, or anything like that,” Tolmer said. “But it’s a bad design.”
Bridgeville is seeking county assistance for what would be a $3 million project.
Prevent property development on nearby wetlands in Upper St. Clair
A 20.57 acre parcel of greenspace/wetland along McLaughlin Creek in Upper St. Clair has been approved for development. Bridgeville officials believe that this will not help the flooding situation.
“They’re trying to sell it to turn it into properties,” Tolmer said. “We feel that’s a very bad choice for that piece of property. It should be a retention pond.”
Prevent re-development on the former the Outback Steakhouse location
During the June 20 floods, the Outback Steakhouse location became a sort of holding pond for the wall of water that rushed down McLaughlin Run Road, killing one woman and damaging property for miles.
The Outback building has been condemned. In forthcoming meetings with neighboring communities, Bridgeville officials will lobby to turn that property into another retention pond.
“I’m not saying that Upper St. Clair has a lot more money than we do,” Tolmer said, “It’s easy for us to say ‘Yeah, sacrifice those 20 acres and do something with [the Outback Steakhouse].’ I know that’s a nice piece of property. But I know that Bridgeville, if you told us that we had to sacrifice a couple parcels of property and it was going to fix a problem, we would do that in a heart beat.”
The borough’s current focus on smaller, more affordable flood-prevention tactics does not mean that the Baldwin Street plan has been ruled out, Tolmer noted. Rather, officials are taking whatever effective action they can, as soon as they can.
“The project that the planning commission [is reviewing] is a very grandiose project,” he said. “And it would be phenomenal for this town. But we’re a small community and our budget is $3 million per year. Yes, something needs to happen, and we’re looking at what we can do right now.”