WEST PITTSTON — Nearly five years ago the flood of 2011 covered West Pittston with water, mud and debris when the Susquehanna River crested at over 42 feet.
On Wednesday, the borough took another step towards recovering from that disaster by holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Streetscape Project to take place on Luzerne Avenue.
Work includes replacing the sewer system, adding new curbs, new sidewalks, new lighting and repaving the road from the end of Luzerne Avenue by the river up to Spring Street.
Tom Reilly, West Pittston Borough Engineer and president of Tom Reilly Associates in Pittston, did not have an exact day to when the project would begin, but said it will be soon.
“Weather permitting, digging will begin within the next two weeks,” said Reilly. “We’ll be notifying the public in advance, especially the people on this street. There’s a notification system in town called CodeRED and there’s a website up now (www.westpittstonboro.com) so we’ll be putting the notice on those.”
Funding for the project comes from a $750,000 Local Share Account grant.
The Streetscape Project is part of the $5 million Disaster Recovery Project the borough has been undergoing for the last two years.
The project consists of four contracts:
• The first contract is for the paving and drainage improvements of flooded areas south of Luzerne Avenue.
• The second contract is for the sewer replacement and roadway and sidewalk improvements, including lighting and streetscape, on Susquehanna Avenue to Spring Street.
• The third contract is for the drainage streetscape and lighting improvements at the large intersection at the end of the Fort Jenkins Bridge.
• The fourth contract is the sewer and roadway improvements in the flooded areas north of Luzerne Avenue.
Contracts two and four are covering the Luzerne Avenue Streetscape Project and contract one was completed last year on Blackmon, Excelsior and Race streets as well as South Susquehanna and Montgomery avenues.
Reilly said contract three will begin later this year.
Members of borough council along with state Sen. John Yudichak, state Rep. Aaron Kaufer and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey were all on hand to take part in the ceremony.
Kaufer recalled cleaning out Agolino’s Restaurant on Luzerne Avenue the day after the flood.
“I literally went in, myself and a couple of friends, just pulling all of the flood damaged stuff out the day after,” he said. “I feel like this community, with everything it’s been through, is a second home to me. They’ve come together taking that next step forward, and now they are taking that next step.”
Kaufer and Yudichak have combined forces to help with funding for the Disaster Recovery Project, saying they acquired $500,000 for West Pittston and in the future hope to acquire another $500,000 each for projects in Exeter and Wyoming boroughs.
Like Kaufer, Yudichak was on hand immediately after the flood and the recent Streetscape Project groundbreaking ceremony brought everything full circle for him.
“All I can think of is how proud I am of the people of West Pittston,” said Yudichak. “They’re so committed to their neighbors, friends and community and to be able to put a $5 million project to, not just improve the quality of life in the community, but keep the community safer. That investment in upgrading the sewers is really going to go a long way to help diminish the impact of any kind of future flooding.”