FAIRMONT — The $3.4 million rock face rehabilitation project, which began on US 250 South in February, is 75 percent complete and should be open to traffic by the end of the year, according to Jason Nelson, senior project engineer with the West Virginia Division of Highways be open in both directions.
“When the project started in February, we never thought it would take this long,” Nelson said. “But we hit a snag in the middle of summer and had to sort of regroup.”
The snag came in the form of an old water pipe inside the abandoned coal mine portal in the middle of the southernmost hill in the project area between Holbert Road and the southern section of Mary Lou Retton Drive.
“This water line forced us to re-tender the work so it could be properly sealed,” Nelson said.
As crews sealed the aqueduct, they had to do more work to ensure water flowed from the hill to the river below without further eroding the work being done to prevent future rockfalls.
“We are dealing with a lot of materials with loose subgrade, scaling, stabilization, the use of so-called shotcrete and solid nail systems in the existing banks to reinforce and secure this area,” said Mike Daley, District 4 WVDOH engineer. in a department in West Virginia of Transportation podcast recently.
Shotcrete is a liquid concrete that is applied with a dispenser that looks like a firefighter’s fire hose.
“We need to upgrade our drainage structures, and once we start doing that we need to mitigate various drainage structures to be able to handle the runoff we have and properly divert it into the river,” continued Daley.
Nelson ended by calling the 0.24-mile project an engineering marvel.
“The work isn’t just on the hillside,” Nelson said. “There’s a system of pipes that run under the roadway to make sure the water goes to the river.”
Over the next few weeks, the current one lane will be moved to the hillside lane to allow crews to work on the portion of the project that is under the road near the river.
And while motorists would like to see the project completed soon, it won’t be fully complete until April 2023.
“That’s because asphalt plants in West Virginia were closed for the winter,” Nelson said.
When the asphalt facilities are back in operation, WVDOH can resurface the pavement and give the road the finishing touches.
Nelson said the rock wall project and the Interstate 79 widening project were separate projects that happened to appear around the same time in the state’s five-year work plan. And due to the proximity of the two projects, it’s forced the two companies working on each project to communicate and coordinate some of their work to try to minimize negative impacts on motorists.
“We just want to make sure we have a safe road and residents can drive through there and no more rock falls,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, the techniques used in the rock face project are not used as often in West Virginia but are widely used in the mountainous western states of the United States
“However, we used the same type of work along the Ohio River in West Virginia,” Nelson said.
The project began with crews removing masses of vegetation and dead trees from the work area and pushing the area back onto exposed rock.
Workers have since installed a material resembling a chain link fence.
“This material is pinned into the rock and part of the concrete, and a material called shotcrete has been applied over it to stabilize it,” Nelson said.
Portions of the project area now include a new wall and drainage system for storm water runoff.
“What we’re doing seems to be showing a really big improvement,” Daley said.
Reach Eric Cravey at 304-367-2523.