MORGANTOWN — Fixing the 20-plus active slides along 1.27 miles of River Road would cost nearly $6 million based on conservative initial estimates, more than four times the $1.4 million annual allotment for slide repair in each West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) district.
Or, put another way, “It’s a mess,” DOH District 4 Engineer Donny Williams said Wednesday afternoon during a work session with the Monongalia County Commission.
The hour-long session ended with an understanding that the “upper” portion of River Road — between Lockside Road and the intersection with DuPont Road — must be protected against the encroaching hillside in order to preserve access for River Road residents and businesses.
The lower portion, between the Westover Bridge and Lockside Road, may have seen its last vehicle — at least for the foreseeable future.
“The reality is, it’s probably as many slides as I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. “Our priority right now probably should be the upper section, to maintain that.”
While slides have been common along the road for years, a major slide on April 17 forced the evacuation of one home and sent large trees tearing through power lines and left them lying across the road about 150 yards below Lockside Road.
The lower portion of River Road has been closed since, meaning access to the handful of homes, two businesses and the Morgantown Lock and Dam — all located off the lower section — must come through Westover and down DuPont.
Williams said the priority in addressing the upper section of River Road will be stopping the flow of water. He explained the state is looking closely at how a housing development off DuPont has impacted the stormwater running back down the hillside, noting water is the major precursor to slippages.
“I’ll say alleged at this time, but we have so much water coming down from this area that it’s destroying the road system that’s there,” Williams said, pointing to the development on an overhead map. He said the initial phase of work would include about $100,000 worth of stormwater management.
“If I were to suggest something as a starting point, we would try to obtain $1 million to $1.5 million, put it on the upper section and work on some of that pavement,” Williams said. “But if we don’t get this water situation figured out, we’re just throwing money away.”
All told, the necessary work on just the upper portion is estimated at about $2.4 million.
The slides will also impact a planned collaboration between the county and DOH to pave and ditch DuPont and River roads. Williams said the state plans to wait to address DuPont as the increased traffic — possibly including heavy trucks hauling sections of pipeline out of the Morgantown Industrial Park — would quickly reverse any improvements.
The county still plans to put in $150,000 and the state about $600,000 to pave and ditch the upper stretch of River Road, including sections on both sides of the DuPont intersection.
Westover Mayor Dave Johnson attended the meeting, as did Glenn Adrian, who owns the Morgantown Industrial Park along with his brother.
Williams said he would like to meet with both men, as well as representatives of the commission and any other stakeholders to discuss the long-term plans for DuPont, particularly once all the pipe sections have been trucked out of the industrial park.
Adrian said that would likely be next year.