Highway Wall Nearly Complete Along Ohio 7

Construction crews are about two weeks from completing a massive rock catchment wall on a stretch of Ohio 7 that has been plagued by rockfalls from the nearby hillside, an Ohio Department of Transportation engineer said.

ODOT District 11 Construction Engineer Nick Susich said the enormous wall – it will measure 12 feet tall, 10 feet wide and 3,500 feet long when completed – will protect passing motorists from any falling debris while engineers plan and construct a long-term solution to the rockfalls.

Portable concrete barriers separate opposing lanes of traffic, all using the northbound lanes, while crews from James White Construction Co. of Weirton complete the wall in the southbound lanes. The construction company was contracted in January to build the wall at a cost of around $3.5 million.

The structure must be tall enough to prevent any hillside debris from reaching the roadway and wide enough to effectively absorb any potential impact, Susich said. The wall is being built from compacted granular material, most of which is pulverized debris from the hillside, he noted.

When the wall is in place, engineers will begin evaluating the hillside to determine the best way to prevent future rockfalls, Susich said. Possible solutions are “laying back” the hillside by making it less steep or installing a netting system to catch any rockfall debris. He expects construction of that long-term solution will not begin until 2015, however.

“That’s why we built the system, because we knew that it was going to be there for a long time,” Susich said of the rock catchment wall. “We worry about safety as much as anything.”