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Pittsburgh officials seek to buy, rent more snowplows this winter

Gene J. Puskar

As Pittsburgh prepares for its next winter storm later this week, city officials have announced plans to boost the number of snoplows treating roads this winter. Legislation introduced Tuesday would allow the city to buy six new snow plows and rent an additional six.

Mayor Ed Gainey vowed last month he would find ways to improve the city’s snow response after winter storms kept streets blanketed for days. Public works officials partly blamed the age of the city’s fleet: The average age of a Pittsburgh plow truck is 11 years old.

“It is clear that we must make additional investments and improvements in our equipment and operations to effectively and efficiently prepare and respond to winter weather,” Gainey said. “This announcement is an important step forward in providing our Public Works employees with the tools they need to treat and clear our roadways.”

Legislation to reallocate more than $470,000 from the capital budget was introduced by Councilor Anthony Coghill Tuesday. Residents in Coghill’s district — which includes Brookline, Beechview, Carrick and other neighborhoods in the city's South Hills — complained last month that it took days to see a plow truck on their street.

If approved, the trucks would be purchased immediately. The funds would be reallocated from several areas including a park reconstruction project in Lawrenceville.

“I am grateful Mayor Gainey agrees with me that more vehicles and drivers are needed before improvements can be made, but I am even more grateful he has found a way to immediately put more vehicles on city streets,” said Coghill. “Our cooperation in introducing this legislation demonstrates the Mayor’s commitment to improving city services for District 4 residents and Pittsburghers city-wide.”

The city has hired nine new truck drivers and four new laborers to help with snow removal through the rest of winter, officials announced Tuesday.

Gainey’s office said that an order of 17 new snowplow trucks has been placed, but delayed as a result of ongoing global supply chain issues.

The city will likely need its entire fleet to confront the rain, sleet and snow heading for Pittsburgh this week.

Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Washington counties are included in the winter storm watch which begins late Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Service, ice accumulation Thursday could lead to power outages. Precipitation is expected to transition to snow early Friday morning.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.