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Rain Slows Progress in the Narrows

September 15, 2012
By DANIEL DORSCH Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

GLEN DALE - By the end of September, residents driving along W.Va. 2 north of Glen Dale may bid farewell to the orange barrels and construction barriers that have been an established part of the landscape for many years.

An 18-month project to repair the stretch of W.Va. 2 known as the Narrows is due to be finished by Oct. 1. For years, the roadway through the Narrows has been plagued by rock slides from above and by slippage of the hillside below.

"The progress has been very good considering the volume and complexity," said Division of Highways District 6 Engineer Gus Suwaid.

Article Photos

Photo by Daniel Dorsch
Traffic lanes are reduced on W.Va. 2 at the north end of Glen Dale before the area known as the Narrows.

Suwaid said the project has consisted of stabilizing the hillside below the road, which has been unstable for years. To do this, 36 steel pilings were driven into the hillside with walls constructed between them to reinforce the steep bank.

The southbound lanes were becoming especially unstable, according to Suwaid. This meant the entire southbound side had to be closed while the hillside leading down to railroad tracks and the Ohio River was stabilized. The pilings were set 10 feet into the rock below the roadway. The right southbound lane has been closed for more than two years.

The original lighting system and existing barriers along the Narrows had been removed at the beginning of the project. To keep the roadway lighted throughout the project, temporary solar lights were installed. New permanent lighting fixtures recently were installed.

DOH acting District Manager Daniel Sikora said the project is in the electrical work phase, and that all that remains is to pave the road surface afterward. According to Sikora, paving could begin as soon as Monday.

The original completion date for the $6.5 million project was Aug. 31, but according to a report from the Department of Transportation Office of Communications it has been pushed back to Sept. 27 because of rain delays.

"Certain jobs can't be done in the rain," said West Virginia Department of Transportation Project Supervisor Ray Johnson.

The division provided a list of days when work was stopped due to rain. Of 18 working days rained out, 16 occurred between August and December 2011. Only two days were lost due to inclement weather in 2012.

The report also included details regarding criteria for inclement weather days. One qualification states that weather conditions must be adverse enough to prevent at least 60 percent of work from being done; another states inclement weather can prevent the work day from beginning.

Suwaid added that no delays were caused by poor planning or a lack of supplies. He said the setting of pilings might have changed if the hillside had moved, which it did, but officials planned for this contingency in advance.

"Look for mainly right lane rehab work and then repaving in the coming weeks," Suwaid said.

While the project officially began in March 2011, work on the Narrows has been in progress at least since the death of motorist Herman C. Werfele in 2005. A rock slide had covered the northbound lanes of W.Va. 2 near Glen Dale, which caused Werfele to swerve into oncoming traffic. The resulting collision led to the 38-year old man's death.

Soon afterward, the WVDOH constructed a steel mesh barrier to stop large boulders from rolling onto the roadway from the hillside above. Before that time, the DOH had always cleared the road of boulders but had been unable to obtain funds for a permanent solution to the problem.

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