Preston Commission wants to talk with DOH on W.Va. 72 fix

KINGWOOD — Preston County Commissioners  are still trying to arrange a meeting with the State Division of Highways (DOH) to discuss the condition of W.Va. 72.

They’ve given up on the idea of driving Transportation Secretary Tom Smith  on the road to point out problems first hand before the end of the year and are trying to arrange a telephone discussion, commissioners said Monday.

“We’re just trying to get some kind of timeline as to what they’re going to do for 72,” Commission President Craig Jennings said Monday. The road restricts access to Rowlesburg, he said. “We’re at the point now where our way out is Salt Lick [Road]. That or they can blaze another trail up over Cannon Hill.”

A section of one lane of 72 collapsed during storms in February. It was included in the DOH’s application for disaster assistance, but no repairs have begun at the site.

The road is bounded by the Cheat River on the side of the slide and by a perpendicular  hill on the other side. Traffic lights restrict traffic to one lane, and a culvert has been put into the ditch to extend the single lane closer to the hillside.

But, “everyday that they just let it sit there, it’s only going to cost the state more to fix,” Jennings said.

He noted that, with the retirement of District 4 Engineer Don Williams, “we’ve got some different leadership in our district now, and I know that one of our legislators stopped in and asked what was going on with that.”

The reply from DOH, Jennings said, was, “well, we’ve got it pretty well taken care of: We’ve got  a light up and a culvert across the ditch.”

“That wasn’t a very good answer, I don’t think,” Jennings said. “I’d rather just say ‘We’re not doing anything’ than say [this]. There is nobody that would sit there  who works for the DOH that would accept that, just sitting there everyday,” at the traffic light.

A phone conference is tentatively set for Thursday.

“We’re hopeful that as a result of the conference call something like [a driving tour] may come out of it,” County Administrator Kathy Mace said.

Commissioner Don Smith said an area of W.Va. 26 south of Kingwood is also deteriorating and could soon fall away, just like Route 72.

Also Monday, commissioners agreed to lease a police cruiser no longer used by the sheriff’s department to the Town of Rowlesburg for $1 per month.  Mace came up with the plan to lease cruisers to towns, rather than transfer ownership.

That way, when towns are done with the cruisers, they don’t have to transfer the title back. The leased cruisers say “Police” on the doors, rather than a specific department. Towns often don’t keep the cruisers for long, it was noted.

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