Construction Ahead: Crews Preparing I-70 for More Longwall Mining at State Line
VALLEY GROVE — Orange construction barrels are migrating back onto Interstate 70 at the state line.
Highway crews will begin next week preparing for more construction on the interstate around the West Virginia Welcome Center at the state line as longwall coal mining is set to return underground in the area this spring.
Workers will close the welcome center on the westbound side of the interstate beginning Monday and begin preparations on a one-mile segment of the highway next to the rest area, the West Virginia Division of Highways announced.
The work is needed to construct “pavement relief joints” as longwall mining snakes its way underneath the interstate less than a mile west of the state line with Pennsylvania. There will be alternating lane closures in each direction of I-70 during the work, DOH officials said.
A contractor will also “secure and stabilize the (welcome center) building in preparation of subsidence,” DOH District 6 Engineer Tony Clark said.
Repairs will need to be made after the mining is complete, although Clark did not know when that will happen.
Although the welcome center will be closed until further notice during the construction preparation and mining operation, the rest area parking lot, temporary restrooms and vending machines will remain open to the public, he said.
The width of the entrance and exit ramps at the rest area will be narrowed while the relief joints are being constructed, but will remain open.
The roadway preparation work is expected to be completed by May 8, highway officials said.
Work was supposed to begin earlier, but the Tunnel Ridge mining operating has “throttled back” production in recent weeks, Clark said. He did not know the exact dates when the mining operation would be moving through the area.
Lane closures and reconstruction of the highway will be similar to work performed last year when the mining operation straddled the state line and caused traffic congestion in both directions on I-70.
“It can be somewhat predicted how that is going to subside and how everything is going to drop, but it’s still not a clear-cut science,” Clark said of the mine subsidence that will eventually buckle the roadway. “It’s not like we can say this will happen at this date and at this time, exactly like this.”
When mining eventually begins, the speed limit will be reduced and traffic will be funneled down to one lane to allow crews to make necessary repairs to the highway. It also allows them to take precautions to avoid vehicle crashes when the road surface is damaged by the mining.
“We learned some things from the last go-around,” Clark said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s too much we can do (differently). It’s not like we can open up both lanes and crank the speed limit back up again, because it’s not safe.”