Paying for I-70 Repair Work

Complaints already are being heard from motorists upset about traffic delays on Interstate 70 in Ohio County and Washington County, Pa. Let us hope taxpayers in both states do not have cause for complaint, too.

As we reported, traffic slowdowns are because one lane of the highway in each direction has been closed. That, in turn, is due to work deep underground, under I-70, involving the Tunnel Ridge coal mine in Ohio County. Tunnel Ridge is in the process of using longwall mining equipment to extract coal from a seam in that area.

While the work is in progress, highways crews from both states will be monitoring I-70 for damage from ground subsidence due to the longwall mining. It is common for the earth’s surface to sink a few feet when that technique is used.

Tunnel Ridge, owned by Alliance Resource Partners, owns rights to the coal under I-70 and nearby. Obviously, the company has every right to extract the coal.

But motorists using I-70 have a right to expect the highway will be safe and reasonably smooth.

As we pointed out in our story, some local residents are not unfamiliar with this type of situation. Several years ago, a section of I-79 near Waynesburg, Pa., was affected by longwall mining.

That cost Pennsylvania taxpayers about $19 million to monitor the process and make repairs to the highway, according to a report by that state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Pittsburgh.

How much protection against a similar expenditure we have in West Virginia is uncertain. Common sense would seem to indicate taxpayers should not have to repair a highway damaged by coal mining underground.

State officials should do all they can to ensure West Virginia taxpayers — who, many years ago, shelled out plenty of money to help build I-70 — are not forced to pay millions more to repair damage caused by human activity. We have our hands full in dealing with damage to roads caused by Mother Nature, after all.

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