Snow Plows Face A Challenging Terrain And Aging Fleet, Says City Public Works Acting Director


On today's program: As the city receives several inches of fresh snow, the Pittsburgh acting director of Public Works explains how the department manages plowing and salting 1,500 “lane miles” of road; Goodblend Pennsylvania is slated to build the region’s largest marijuana plant and dispensary, a 120,000-square-foot facility; and former Pittsburgh resident Sharon G. Flake has published a companion to her bestselling young adult novel, “The Skin I’m In.”

Public Works Snow Plowing with An Aging Fleet
(0:00 — 8:10) 

The Pittsburgh region is blanketed, yet again, with several inches of snow. For some, that means navigating slushy and slippery roads, while others might already have plowed streets. 

“I would say, from the time the first flake falls, that they should expect roads to be plowed in 24 hours,” says Chris Hornstein, acting director of Public Works for the City of Pittsburgh. “We do have 1,500 lane miles to treat, roughly, so we average about five miles an hour.”

Hornstein says the department is maintaining an aging fleet of about a hundred plows, but at any given time, only about 75 are deployed. The rest are ready to go out if an operating plow runs into trouble, or has to be pulled from its route. 

“Is that enough is a very good question,” says Hornstein. “I think it’s a great start. A lot of it also depends on the type of weather event that we’re having.” 

Hornstein says the department is working to acquire newer machines, because downed equipment can create the largest delay.

Aside from technical problems, there have been some snow plow accidents. Just this month, two salt trucks have crashed: One going over a hill in the South Side and another in the Carrick neighborhood. 

“Some of those accidents can be anomaly,” says Hornstein, “Honestly the city is challenging. The challenging topography, in some cases a challenging road network that we have to treat.”

Goodblend Pennsylvania to open largest marijuana facility in the city
(8:12 — 13:12)

Pittsburgh is about to see construction of the region’s largest marijuana production operation in the North Side: a 120,000 square foot facility. 

Goodblend Pennsylvania is building the facility that will eventually conduct marijuana research with the University of Pittsburgh, thanks to a $3 million grant from Goodblend.

“We anticipate breaking ground soon so that we can build out the infrastructure and get started with plants in the proverbial ground in the indoor facilities by early Summer,” says Elizabeth Conway, regional president of Goodblend Pennsylvania. 

Conway says by putting the company’s first growing facility and dispensary in Pittsburgh, Goodblend has an opportunity to make local hires and take advantage of unused sites in the area. 

“We anticipate we’ll start with several hundred [employees] and local hiring is absolutely a priority for us,” says Conway. “We’re also very interested in social equity efforts, ensuring that the legacy of over-policing minority communities does not persist and lock folks out from this high-potential industry.”

Goodblend, which is a subsidiary of the Georgia-based company Parallel, will be working with the University of Pittsburgh to conduct clinical studies on the use of marijuana among people with sickle cell disease and intractable pain.

“If Pennsylvania acts soon enough, especially to move from just strictly medicinal, that 40% of Pennsylvanians will soon be a short drive from some of the legal adult use cannabis states, and we know from other states that people will cross state borders to buy, further boosting our potential in state revenue and jobs if we could be the first to market for something like that in this region.”

Sharon G. Flake’s latest book continues the thread of her bestseller, ‘The Skin I’m In’
(13:15 — 18:00)

Sharon G. Flake might be Pittsburgh’s best-known author of young-adult fiction, including novels like the classic “The Skin I’m In.” 

Flake’s new novel, “The Life I’m In,” is a companion to that 1998 best-seller. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll has this profile.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.