Note: To follow along with the discussion in the planning commission video above, you’ll need this 17-page PDF that offers maps and details about the proposed project.
A $30 million flood alleviation and neighborhood revitalization plan could land on Bridgeville Borough Council’s agenda as soon as next month.
In early October, Bridgeville’s planning commission is expected to wind down its work on the Baldwin Street plan and provide councilmembers with recommendations regarding the proposal.
From there, it will be up to council to decide whether they want to pursue the ambitious plan and if so, how to pay for it.
Don’t expect dramatic changes anytime soon. The project’s price tag and property acquisition requirements mean that it could takes decades to get to the finish line.
But if borough officials find a way to bring the plan to life, Bridgeville could become a completely different community with a revitalized town center.
What is the Baldwin Street plan?
Essentially, it’s a plan to delete Baldwin Street and start over.
Baldwin Street and the surrounding areas have a serious, dangerous flooding problem, and that’s not going to change if the area stays the way it is today—packed with buildings, roads, parking lots and residents just a few feet from flood-prone creek.
The solution proposed by Bridgeville’s environmental engineering consultant—and seemingly supported by the planning commission—aims to revitalize the area by addressing the flood issue using three primary projects.
The Central Project
Simply put, the centerpiece of this plan would radically reshape the Baldwin Street corridor, eliminating the area as we know it and creating park-space and a new retail district. This would occur in four not-necessarily linear phases:
- Bridgeville would acquire scores of properties on Baldwin Street and in some adjacent areas.
- Baldwin Street would disappear and be replaced by a new Bower Hill Road that follows a similar route to the current Baldwin Street.
- McLaughlin Run Creek would be widened and deepened. Engineers would add new curves to the creek and it would be flanked by wide swaths of greenspace on both sides. The area that we now know as Bower Hill Road would become a creek bank.
- The land on the south side of Baldwin Street would become a new retail district with pedestrian trails, park space, and underground parking.
The Northern Project
Downstream from Baldwin Street, McLaughlin Creek creates another choke point when it passes under Bower Hill Road makes a 90-degree turn just behind the Dari-Delite.
Among the various ideas that have been suggested to address that bend, there is one commonality–any improvement will require the borough to obtain some of the land currently occupied by Silhol Builder Supply, the concrete company that has been in Bridgeville more than 100 years.
Silhol’s owners are reportedly amenable to changes that would benefit the area and reduce floods. Borough officials are still evaluating the various approaches they could take.
The Southern Project
McLaughlin Creek creates another major problem area at the other end of town when it snakes around the ballfield near the Upper St. Clair border.
To reduce floodwaters rushing downstream into Bridgeville, borough officials hope to convert the into a retention pond that will soak up water that would otherwise be bearing down on Baldwin Street.
The borough is already planning to install “trash traps” in this part of the creek, which would snag large piece of debris and prevent them from clogging up the creek further downstream.
How Long Would This Take?
If the project was fully funded today, it would take 3 to 5 years to finish the first three phases, according to Carolyn Yagle, of Environmental Planning & Design.
However, the project has virtually zero funding so far. Given the scope of this project, a 10 to 30 year timeframe seems more likely, although some borough officials would prefer an accelerated timeline, if possible.
How Much Will This Cost?
More than $35 million, most likely.
Actual construction has been estimated at $30-$35 million.
Land acquisition could add several million dollars more to the price tag.
Former Bridgeville Mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. tabulated the assessed value of nearly 80 properties that could be involved in this project (you can see the Excel sheet here).
According to public records, the most properties most crucial to launching this project—those located along Bower Hill Road and the norths side of Baldwin Street (the creek side)—are worth more than $3 million.
The properties on the south side of Baldwin Street, where acquisition would be less pressing, are assessed at a total of $1.5 million.
Is The Plan Finished?
The proposal is still under review by the Bridgeville Planning Commission and changes are being made while borough manager Lori Collins meets with officials from neighboring communities that also feel the effects of these floods.
The planning commission is expected to meet again in early October, where member may vote to make a recommendation to borough council on how to proceed with the plan.
Is the Borough Going to Force Me Out Of My House?
Borough officials have repeatedly said that they are not considering eminent domain as an option for property acquisition.
Council president Mike Tolmer recently said that if Bridgeville secures funding and moves forward with the $30 million plan, the borough would acquire property from willing sellers, rather than land from people who do not want to leave: “I want to make that very clear that the way the plan is set up—as property became available for sale, it would be purchased. This isn’t a plan that we’re looking to do in a year or two. This is over the course of many years.”
How Could Bridgeville Ever Pay For This?
Bridgeville cannot afford to pay for this. Not alone, at least. The borough’s annual budget is around $3 million. Just the basic clean-up costs from this summer’s flood has stretched the town’s budget thin.
The tax raise required to fund this would be astronomical. Issuing a municipal bond would incite a revolt.
So the future of this plan most likely hinges on Bridgeville getting assistance from government entities with more money, like FEMA, which offer programs to assist local governments with these types of flood remediation efforts.
Some federal agencies have rebuffed Bridgeville’s requests for help in the past, but now that the borough has a clear, well-formed plan that would reduce future flood damage, FEMA and other entities may be more willing to help.