TUNNELTON — A meeting this week on the Tunnelton underpass left residents with no promises of immediate relief.
The underpass takes vehicles under CSX tracks, through a short tunnel from W.Va. 26 to the other side of town. During heavy rains, the underpass floods, which delays the response time for emergency vehicles and sends local residents out of their way.
It also causes flooding on W.Va. 26. Larger vehicles, including fire trucks and ambulances, have to go around, delaying them as much as 15 minutes.
“Going down Bonafield twists the frame on the fire trucks,” Tunnelton Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) volunteer Angie Weaver said.
Representatives of the State Division of Highways (DOH), CSX, the Preston County Commission and Congressman David McKinley’s office met with Tunnelton Mayor Brian Harris and members of the community Wednesday.
Harris said he was hopeful some progress would made by getting representatives from CSX and the DOH together.
Anthony Carovillano, railroads and utilities engineer for the DOH, said it is looking at drainage issues. “We’re hoping to get a handle on the problem today and see what we can do,” he said.
In August the town ran a camera through the drain to see if a blockage was causing the flooding. According to the DOH, a blockage was found.
“I want the danger taken care of,” said Laura Rhodes, secretary and treasurer of the Tunnelton Neighborhood Watch.
At an August meeting, TVFD President Brian Moreland said it had received 13 emergency calls about the underpass, including two for water rescue. There was also concern about school bus routes that go through the underpass.
Business owner Dave Biggins said Wednesday that flooding from the drainage system is causing him problems. “Every time it rains it does damage to my store,” Biggins said. “It’s damaging my duct work and destroying the foundation of my building.”
“We can’t have flooding on our road (W.Va. 26),” DOH Regional Construction Engineer Darby Clayton said. “We will do a drainage study to get the water to drain properly and determine how the different drainage systems tie together.”
Clayton said he was told the DOH doesn’t own the right-of-way through the underpass. “It belongs to CSX and the Town of Tunnelton,” Clayton said.
At an earlier meeting then DOH District 4 Engineer Donny Williams said the brick road going into the underpass on one side belongs to the town. He said W.Va 26 on the other side is the state’s, and the right-of-way under the railroad was CSX’s responsibility due to a 1912 agreement.
“They (DOH) patched the underpass on Dec. 3,” Weaver said. “Now it’s washing out and starting holes again.” Her main concern is a tire going into the hole next to one of the grates. “When the underpass floods, the hole is under water and can’t be seen,” Weaver said.
In an email, CSX Spokesperson Laura Phelps wrote, “CSX was pleased to join a productive meeting of state and local officials Wednesday to discuss storm water drainage in Tunnelton, WV. We are closely coordinating with the state Division of Highways, which is leading the effort to research the issue and develop improvement plans. Our goal is to support and collaborate with DOH and local officials as they work diligently to find solutions that benefit the local community.”