WELLSBURG - Officials with the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission hope state highway officials can help them to find a solution to the many rock slides that have blocked or threatened to block traffic on state Route 2 in recent months.
The Brooke County Commission was advised on April 26 of a letter sent to Dan Sikora, district director of construction for the West Virginia Division of Highways, by Mike Paprocki, BHJ transportation study director.
Paprocki said members of the committee have expressed concerns about safety, traffic detours and road closings resulting from rock slides on the highway, particularly in areas north and south of Wellsburg.
Rocks fell onto the highway's right northbound lane south of Cross Creek Road on Feb. 25, and on April 5, a boulder as large about the size of a compact car fell onto the highway's berm in the same area, according to officials.
The latter slide occurred while the center northbound lane was closed because crews were working to install guardrail along the median.
In recent weeks state road crews have been working to remove debris from slides along the highway south of Beech Bottom.
Paprocki wrote, "The policy committee understands a long-term fix may cost several million dollars." But Paprocki continued, "the benefit of such projects far outweighs the negative impacts the continual delays and lost economic opportunities motorists and freight carriers experience through detours and accidents, as well as the time resources spent by district forces and emergency responders to constantly mobilize, close the road, set up detours and clean the landslides."
Paprocki noted that in March Route 2 became the principal north-south route between U.S. Route 22 and Interstate Route 70 to the south and U.S. Route 30 to the north after slides closed state Route 7 south of Brilliant and north of Stratton.
"A total closure of state Route 2 because of landslides during this event would have crippled the Ohio River economy of West Virginia's Northern Panhandle and Eastern Ohio," he said.
Paprocki said the committee is willing to work with the state Division of Highways to secure funding needed to address the problem and invited Sikora to attend the group's next meeting at noon May 25 at BHJ's office.
Commission President Bernie Kazienko, who chairs the BHJ Planning Commission, suggested fellow commissioner Marty Bartz, who is assistant superintendent of Brooke County Schools, ask the Brooke County school board to lobby for a solution.
Kazienko noted past slides have affected school bus routes.
Following the meeting, Brooke County Sheriff Richard Ferguson said, "You're never going to stop all rock slides and mud slides." But he said expanding Route 2 to four lanes between Cross Creek and Short Creek and the excavation of the hillside would not only curtail slides but also ease traffic to and from a proposed bridge south of Wellsburg.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com.)