DOH slide budget insufficient for all the repairs needed

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) District 4 Engineer Donny Williams said he would estimate the cost to stop the annual slides along Monongahela Boulevard to be at least $2 million to $3 million, cautioning that assessment could change dramatically once the division’s geotechnical engineers file their report on the matter.

While much of the transportation focus in recent weeks has been split between concerns over maintaining existing roads and expectations tied to dozens of upcoming road bond projects, slides have barged into the conversation of late.

Williams met with the county commission earlier this week to discuss River Road — which currently has about 20 slides between its inlet near the Westover Bridge and the intersection with DuPont Road. The cost to fix the whole stretch is in the $6 million range. Williams and the commission opted instead to focus on the section between Lockside Drive and the DuPont intersection for an estimated $2.4 million.

Even that exceeds the DOH’s slide budget for the entire six-county district by $1 million.

And while River Road is the extreme example, it’s one of many vying for an insufficient pool of funds.

Williams said that before the April 17 slide that potentially closed the lower portion of the River Road for good, he had already been forced to raid funds earmarked for the road when two major slides hit U.S. 50 in Preston County.

Often, he explained, it simply comes down to which road serves more people — which is why he recommended work be focused on only a portion of River Road.

Speaking of the Monongahela Boulevard slip this week, Williams said, “We haven’t gotten our report back on that, but again, we have to balance. Do we spend $3 million on the lower part of River Road to open it or would you rather spend $3 million, if we can get the money, on Mon Boulevard.”

He said Monongahela Boulevard sees more than 30,000 vehicles daily.

“River Road, God bless those people, but it’s eight to 10 residences and two small businesses,” he said. “We have to be smart.”

Regardless of whether local officials prioritized River Road or Mon Boulevard, there’s still a critical piece that needs to fall into place.

“They’re going to be comparable in scope, but there again, we don’t have a funding source for that either,” Williams said.

District 4 personnel have also requested the state expedite the release of funds to fix a slide on Kingwood Pike.

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