Don’t Ignore Tunnel Needs

Some of the bridges carrying Interstate 70 through Ohio County need to be repaired or replaced. Sections of pavement require work, too. I-70 is simply too important to be allowed to continue deteriorating.

But what about the twin tunnels that take I-70 travelers under Wheeling Hill?

It is obvious to anyone driving through the tunnels that they, too, need work. Tiles have fallen from the tunnel lining and ought to be replaced. Water draining into the tunnel is a concern. Lighting never has been the tunnels’ strong point. Potholes are a safety concern.

A major renovation project that began in 2007 was supposed to have made the tunnels good for years, at a cost of more than $14.4 million. But, as we reported while workers were busy inside the tunnels, they encountered a number of challenges. One, how to cope with water apparently draining out of an abandoned mine, never was resolved entirely.

An inspection of the tunnels in 2013 uncovered no major concerns — but it rated their condition as only fair. Results of a more recent check have not yet been revealed.

As we reported a few days ago, West Virginia Division of Highways officials understand the situation. As DOH District 6 Engineer David Brabham told our reporter, they are “aware of the issues …”

A massive repair, replacement and renovation project planned for I-70 in Ohio County might seem the perfect time to address tunnel concerns. But, as Brabham said, “there are no projects planned for the tunnel at the moment.”

There should be. No amount of improvements elsewhere on I-70 in Ohio County can keep traffic flowing if one or both of the tunnels becomes unsafe. DOH officials should be learning what needs to be done to the tunnels, then other state officials should find the money to do it.

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