Rocky road

Massive pothole irks residents of 25th Avenue

Mirror photo by William Kibler / Billie Summers walks to her house on 25th Avenue. Summers has to park on Washington Avenue and then walk home because the roadway is too rutted to drive on.

It was July, and the weather was beautiful, but Billie Summers didn’t dare to try ascending the hill to her house a hundred yards away, along 25th Avenue, with her pickup truck.

A couple of days earlier, she’d blown a tire trying to negotiate that stretch, so she parked on Washington Avenue at the bottom and walked — over the crumbling remains of a thin layer of blacktop, past a pothole almost as big as a bathtub, to where the avenue turns into an actual dirt road.

Summers’ house is one of three on that section, between Washington Avenue and 17th Street, and Summers, along with the residents of the other two houses, are not only upset about the road’s condition — but likely to remain irked.

The avenue is in Logan Township, but it was never taken over by township government and is thus considered a private road.

The township doesn’t work on private roads, said Cassandra Schmick, Logan Township planning director.

The normal sequence for township takeover involves a developer building the road to township specifications, a request for a takeover, then adoption by the township supervisors.

Otherwise, if a property owner, cluster of property owners or developer builds an access driveway to some lesser standard, the township can’t take over, and maintenance for the driveway — including the plowing of snow — remains the responsibility of the property owners, according to Schmick.

It’s not clear how 25th Avenue remained private, but the houses were built in the early 1900s, said Jimmy Walter, whose mother and sister live in one of the three houses on the rutted stretch.

His mother’s house has been in his family since 1915, he said.

According to his mother, Louise, the township paved the road and generally took care of it until 1972, when Hurricane Agnes tore it up, Walter said.

At this point, it would be prohibitively expensive for residents of that stretch to pay to bring it up to township standards, Schmick said.

It would require a proper base, curbing, paving and a cul-de-sac — for which there probably isn’t enough right-of-way, she said.

A more practical approach would be for the residents to pool their resources to at least fill in the holes, making it drivable, she said.

Actually, Walter’s brother made a move in that direction not long ago, paying a couple hundred dollars at a local masonry supply company for material that he used to fill the biggest pothole, Walter said.

The material was supposed to harden when it got wet.

A big rainstorm washed it out the next day, he said.

The owner of the house above Walter’s mother has also indicated that he may be willing to help, according to Cheryl Johns, executive director of the Altoona Housing Authority, which administers the Section 8 housing program that subsidizes the rent on that house.

The avenue is not the responsibility of the authority, however, Johns said.

The location of the city boundary along the downtown side of the avenue in that area has made the situation even more gnarly.

Both houses on the downtown side have city addresses, officials said.

But the city’s judgment is the same as that of the township: “As far as we’re concerned, (25th Avenue) is a driveway,” said Nate Kissell, Altoona public works director.

“We couldn’t pave it if we wanted,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico, adding that he feels “bad” about the problem.

The near impassibility of the avenue has created issues usually associated with rural living.

Louise Walter is 74, and her car “is basically stuck in the driveway,” Walter said.

Jimmy Walter’s own truck is a four-wheel drive, and he got it hung up recently on that stretch, he said.

Judy Green, who lives across from Louise Walter, had to be carried out in a body bag — alive — recently by ambulance workers, because they couldn’t pull up to her door, Green said.

Her mailman doesn’t come up anymore, she said.

Walter is not appeased by the explanations of the municipal officials.

“I’m not letting this go,” he said. “Something is going to be done, even if it’s going to take me having to take (them) to court.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.