Virus hampers DOH flooding project timeline
TUNNELTON — The coronavirus pandemic has not helped the state or Preston County resolve flooding and other problems at the CSX underpass in Tunnelton.
Brent Walker, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said a drainage improvement project is still being developed. “CEC (Contracting Engineering Consultants) is working on plans and we are working with CSX to keep this moving ahead,” he said. “COVID-19, as you can imagine, has slowed things down. We are currently waiting on plan revisions and then we will get back with CSX.”
The underpass takes vehicles under CSX train tracks, through a short tunnel from W.Va. 26 to the other side of Tunnelton.
During heavy rains, it floods. It also causes flooding on W.Va. 26. Larger vehicles, including fire trucks and ambulances, have to go around, delaying them by as much as 15 minutes.
When the fire trucks come out onto Bonafield Street, there is a steep lip at the edge of the road, and the road can twist the trucks’ frames, firefighters have said. The exit is also on a curve.
In an email, CSX said they met with members of the West Virginia Division of Highways in January.
“This is a WVDOH project and any questions should be directed to them,” the email said.
Preston County Commissioner Dave Price said he would like to see a resolution to the problem before winter.
He said he may place consideration of sending a letter of inquiry to DOT on the next commission agenda.
“It’s gone on now for two or three years. I hope when things open up this will be a priority,” Price said.
During a 2018 meeting, former 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 property of the state, and the right-of-way under the railroad is CSX’s responsibility, due to a 1912 agreement.
In 2018, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 2984. The bill grants priority to roadway construction, reconstruction and maintenance for roadways prone to recurring floods that hinder ingress and egress. The bill became effective June 1, 2018.
Tunnelton Mayor Brian Harris did not respond in time for this report.