DOH working on a ‘permanent fix’ for River Road

MORGANTOWN — According to West Virginia Division of Highways District 4 Maintenance Assistant David Vaughn, the DOH is in the process of engineering a project that will be a “permanent fix” for River Road. 

There have been cones and a “Road Closed” sign at both ends of lower River Road — near the Westover Bridge at the bottom and at the four-way intersection with DuPont Road and Industrial Park Road at the top — since heavy rains broke a section of hillside loose on April 3. 

Even so, the slip-prone section of road is being used by people who have no other access to their homes and businesses, among others. 

“The portion of the road that is closed is a safety hazard to the public, not because of traffic or lack of maintenance, but because of geography and the unstable hill above it. WV DOH has conducted a study of the road and has purchased property for a future project,” Vaughn said. 

As indicated, this is not a new problem. 

Most notably, on April 17, 2018, a massive slide forced the evacuation of one home and sent several large trees tearing through power lines, ultimately depositing them across the path of traffic about 150 yards below Lockside Road. 

That slide actually occurred while DOH personnel were on the same stretch of road repairing another section of displaced hillside.  

The road was ultimately closed for about a year and a half, during which the DOH located some 20 active slides along a 1.27-mile stretch and estimated it would need $6 million to fix them. 

The question then became whether the DOH would continue to address the annual slides along the problematic stretch of road or cut its losses and close it permanently to through traffic. 

It chose the former. 

On Sept. 6, 2019, after some 500 days, the road was unexpectedly reopened. 

At the time the DOH explained crews had cleaned it up and had detected no additional movement and so decided to reopen the road — citing the $6 million price tag “to fix the slide properly.” 

It was also noted the DOH was working on the “design and study” of what needed to be done to shore up the slide-prone route commonly used by heavy trucks accessing the Morgantown Industrial Park. 

It’s unclear if that design and study work is connected to the forthcoming River Road project. 

The DOH did not indicate what the project is, when it will begin or what the status of River Road will be in the meantime. 

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