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I-70 Near State Line Fully Reopened to Traffic… For Now

Photo by Scott McCloskey – The West Virginia Welcome Center in Ohio County near the Pennsylvania state line is expected to remain closed through next spring as more longwall mining is expected to move beneath that area early next year.

WHEELING — While a small stretch of I-70 was paved in Ohio County last month near the Pennsylvania state line following a panel of longwall coal mining moving beneath that area, the West Virginia Welcome Center building is expected to remain closed until sometime next year.

Although the building remains closed, the parking area and portable toilet stalls at the welcome center are still available for passing motorists. Continued mitigation work on the center is expected to begin again sometime next year after another longwall panel moves beneath the highway in that area, according to West Virginia Division of Highways Area Engineer Mike Witherow.

“That (welcome center) is within the angle of influence of the next panel, and so it will remain closed until they mine through the next panel,” Witherow explained.

He said the coal company has identified that there still could be some settlement in the location of the welcome center, but they have already begun designing the remediation of the structure.

“Hopefully, once the next mine panel goes through and we experience the effects, then they will be able to go to work right away and should be able to get it open before next summer,” Witherow added.

It was in mid-April when The Hughes Corporation of Sycamore, Pa., began mitigation work on the welcome center in an effort to minimize structural damage to the building as a result of possible ground subsidence from mining being performed hundreds of feet beneath the site by the Tunnel Ridge Coal Company. Tunnel Ridge hired Hughes to perform mitigation work on the center, which included segmenting the building into the three sections.

It was last month the DOH subcontracted a contractor to perform some “asphalt lifts” and do some paving work while “reconstructing” that section of roadway to meet the profile for a 70 mph speed limit. The speed limit is scheduled to remain at 60 mph along that particular stretch of I-70 until the remainder of the scheduled longwall coal seams are completed over the next couple of years, according to Witherow.

“Through the mining process, which is going to involve a few more panels — we got another panel coming through late winter/early spring next year and some subsequent panels and I think another two or three after that — during these mining phases we are going to maintain that 60 mph (speed limit),” Witherow explained. “When we’re restoring the pavement, we are reconstructing it back to 70 mph design speeds, so we can bring that all back up when we’re done,” he added.

Motorists encountered weeks of delays on the interstate in that general location in 2019 on two separate occasions as a result of the longwall mining operations.

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