On the Road to Repair

Despite occasional criticism from some drivers in the community, public works employees approach their jobs with pride and a commitment to excellence.


Paul Tyndall

Blazier Drive in McCandless bears some cracks. Efforts of construction have been in progress around the area.

Paul Tyndall, Staff Writer

If ignorance centers itself around what it takes to build a road, it is established by the vanity to see the sweat of a brow and the belief that this strife comes from nothing but empty virtue.

Here in the northern head of Allegheny county lies the calamitous imperfections of sudden gaping vegetation within Franklin Park and steep hills surrounding McCandless. This geography is penetrated by the resolve of construction workers, who with authentic movement announce the narration of their lives with every beating pulse of labor and hardship. These are the communities where each step happens to have merit and a sense of devoted action to a cause of one’s own. 

Roads here rarely fail to act out of their purpose and never find themselves on the bitter end in the consciousness of most drivers. In the McCandless and Franklin Park communities, the sentiment remains current. However, this doesn’t negate certain issues civilians might have with the public works system.  

NASH junior Aidan Smithyman has discrepancies with the infrastructure of McCandless.

“Construction ruins my ability to get to school on time, while my parents worry about my safety on the roads in winter,” he said. 

Smithyman can unknowingly appreciate the fact that he’s part of that magnetism forging people into a certain agreement. More North Allegheny students have taken a dislike to how construction procedures have disturbed some aspects of their schedule.

Another junior, Evan Lyon, finds that the maintenance of roads misaligns his routine, while also standing firm on the importance of road maintenance.

“It can be annoying,” Lyon reinforced, “but the construction of new roads helps build important infrastructure for our community.” 

Yet it could be asked if these observations leave out the ingrained vigilance taking place in the community’s public works departments, such as that of McCandless. 

It’s my pleasure to make sure any needed accommodations are met, so we continue maintaining roads that are top notch.

— Jeff Schoeneman, McCandless Public Works Superintendent

McCandless Public Works Superintendent Jeff Schoenemen works out of a small office space engrossed in neatly organized files and sparse time constraints. He prides himself on his ability to convert the most stubborn critics of public service by the sheer manner of a handshake or the defining bellow embedded in his voice.

Schoeneman recalled the in-depth process of replacing damaged road structures in keeping with the philosophy of public works.

“Every year, we go and assess the following years with the roads that are on the paving program schedule,” Schoeneman.

This assessment functions on a one-to-five scoring system, prioritizing the older roads (e.g. roads that were refurbished in 2003 are planned for 2023) over newly implemented roads (e.g. recently renovated roads in 2016 are moved to 2024). If an oversight occurs, the issue rises to the top of Schoeneman’s list. 

After the evaluation is completed, a paving program is drafted, and approved by the town council.

“Some of our roads get milled down completely to the base material,” Schoeneman added. “We replace the base and the top, other roads happen to get milled down an inch and a half or two, so we replace just the top. We typically start road replacement in July.”

As for the question of which roads meet the criteria for replacement, Schoeneman once again appeared resolute, noting, “First of all, we look for potholes, alligatoring (cracking in the pavement), we also look for general imperfections in the road surface, whether it be a wide crack or small crack.”

Schoeneman admitted that most of the roads he works on that are of a certain age do not last for long or tend to wear down faster due to environmental factors.

“The common usage of roads, weather conditions, and another big thing is the shade, which usually hammers them pretty badly compared to ones in sunlight,” Schoeneman said.

While Schoeneman and the county have an agreement with the state to keep snow and ice removal a priority, the McCandless Public Works department maintains a total of 419 roads, 21 of which are county roads, 15 of which are state-owned.

McCandless Public Works also sees damage from the weather as a prevalent and consistent issue regarding its roads.

Schoneman stated, “This is a big deal for us. Stormwater management, any of those catch basins in the street that are damaged or old, are replaced with caste concrete.”

As the emphasis of the conversation drifted away from basic procedure, Schoeneman with general assertion maintained his unwavering commitment to the McCandless community.

“The residents of the town don’t complain all that often,” he said. “When they do, it’s my pleasure to make sure any needed accommodations are met, so we continue maintaining roads that are top notch.”