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Flood and rain play major part in recent road issues

The Dominion Post

Winter weather often poses challenges for travelers in the form of ice and snow.

This year, the area didn’t see much of the white stuff, instead experiencing more rain and with it, a different set of challenges.

Among those are road slips, where the side of a road falls away.

John J. “JJ” Jordan, maintenance engineer from the Division of Highways (DOH) District 4, said the northern part of the state saw a lot of these issues to flooding and heavy rain in the area.

“I think there was an early March event that caused a considerable amount of road slides above and below the roads, a lot of debris and whatnot. It’s caused our forces to be out to do a lot of clean-up work and, of course, slide repair projects,” he said.

Jordan said water, in one form or another, is always a factor in road slips and slides, as well as the way the weather has been pretty sporadic.

He also said aside from the weather, the DOH itself faces a lot of challenges in trying to alleviate stresses on the traveling public. He said forces can get pretty thin, as the DOH already has scheduled maintenance they are always trying to catch up on, and when a disaster — or a slip or slide — happens, it takes crews away from already planned work.

Funding also has a large part to do with road projects. Each district and county receives only so much money, though sometimes the DOH will receive money for disasters from organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Jordan said fixing road slips can be a big undertaking. Oftentimes, utilities can be in the way, the area will need to be surveyed and the DOH will sometimes needs to take core samples to test the soil and ground the road is on so it can be assessed. Then it goes to designers who have to make plans to rebuild the road.

“There is no off time for us. Basically, we are at it 365 days a year,” he said.

The DOH is engaged from the time a disaster occurs to the time it
ends. Jordan said it’s important to make sure roads are safe to travel so first responders and utility companies can access them when needed.

Jordan said road issues don’t happen overnight, and fixing them are of the highest priority.

“We start as soon as it is safe to do so. We have a team of folks that go out and look for these slides. We assess the damage, we get a preliminary estimate and that comes back to our district,” he said.

Sometimes things can take up to a year to get fully repaired, especially those that need to be contracted out. Typically, repairs will take 6-9 months. Much of it depends on the severity of the project and also other projects the district is working on at the time.

“We kind of have to step back and reassess how severe are they, how much impact are they to the traveling public?” he said.

The public is good about letting the DOH know when things happen on their roadways and Jordan said DOH officials are mindful of taking those concerns and handling them accordingly. Prioritizing is key to making sure people are able to travel as safely as possible. He said the DOH strives to do its best to be the least impactful to the traveling public and take care of problems as logically and quickly as possible.