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How COVID-19 is affecting road work in Preston County

KINGWOOD — Preston County commissioners say they are still communicating with the State Division of Highways (DOH) about road work, but that, like everything else, it has been changed by COVID-19.

And Commissioner Don Smith said commissioners are looking to tweak the disaster declaration the commission first issued two years ago based on road

“It is kind of dated because it focused on roads they’ve already worked on now,” Smith said.

Commission President Samantha Stone had a meeting scheduled with state and local DOH officials the week of April 6, but it was cancelled. However, she remains in contact with the DOH.

“I have a lot of questions,” Stone said. “I think here in the next couple weeks we’ll see a difference as the governor starts loosening the reins,” on restrictions imposed because of the

In late March, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) said workers were being divided into two groups, which rotated every two weeks.

“For each two-week time period, one group will telework from home, completing a rigorous training course. The other group will continue roadwork and emergency response, while taking precautions to avoid COVID-19 exposure. At the end of two weeks, the groups will switch,” according to a DOT news release.

Other DOT workers are working from home. And, “Bridge inspection crews will continue to inspect bridges on the pre-determined schedule, but specialized crews that travel all over the state will be temporarily shut down to avoid increased exposure.”

Preston Commissioner Dave Price said he also hasn’t received any information on the DOH’s plans, other than daily job reports.

“I understand it’s April. Heck, they were throwing salt and cinders the other day,” Price said. “I’m wondering about the training, and the other thing is I’d sort of like to see a plan.”

Price said, he would have thought the DOH would already be far along in planning for this year’s work.

“Right now we have no clarity on road projects,” Stone said, but the DOH has promised to meet with her.

Smith said he has maintained contact with Lynn Phillips of the governor’s office on road issues, but the focus is elsewhere now.

“My biggest fear is that this could delay the awarding of some of the contracts,” Smith said. Contractors, for example, may not bid on some jobs because it will be difficult to keep social distancing.

One of Stone’s questions is whether Preston is still scheduled to have use of a “reclaimer,” which she believes chews up asphalt or tar and chip for reuse.

Meanwhile, Prestonians continue to contact commissioners about road conditions.

For example, “The road between Terra Alta and the Maryland line is almost gone, and it hasn’t been that long since they paved it,” Price said.

“Within the next couple weeks I’ll be getting through these meetings,” Stone said, which should provide some answers.

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