Delays on the detour, emergency access, increased costs in terms of money and time for motorists and why the road construction has been done without regard to the people it was affecting were all on the minds of the Man community as they poured out their concerns about the closure of a section of W.Va. Route 10 to representatives of the W.Va. Department of Transportation, elected officials and construction company representatives.
W.Va. Route 10 is a very narrow and winding road, with not-so-solid rocks just inches from the roadway, with no shoulder on the other side, just a straight drop down onto the railroad tracks below. The road is well known as being very dangerous.
The road between the Town of Man and City of Logan is currently receiving an upgrade to a four-lane highway built to the same standards as the Appalachian Corridor system. About four miles of the route is open to traffic, between Man and Rita. The section from Rita to Logan is under construction.
Construction activity coupled with a very wet spring resulted in the closure of a one-mile segment of the route after it became unstable after rockslides, one of which sent three people to the hospital and resulted in the truck they had been in being crushed after they got out of it.
Man High School’s Little Theater was packed with residents affected by the closure, who were ready to ask questions, make comments and offer solutions to help the community get through the approximate 90 days it will take or to get the road re-opened to traffic.
Those present to hear the concerns, comments and field questions included W.Va. Delegate Rupert “Rupie” Phillips, W.Va. Dept. of Highways Dist. 2 Manager Steve Runyon, W.Va. Dept. of Transportation Dist. Manger Scott Eplin, Dave Plummer, Bizzack Construction, W.Va. Dept. of Transportation Construction Engineer Chris Collins, Rob Williams with Vecellio & Grogan Inc., Steve Adkins with Vecellio & Grogan, W.Va. Dept. of Transportation Communications Specialist Carrie Bly, W.Va. Dept. of Transportation Office of Communications Director Brent Walker, W.Va. Dept. of Highways - Maintenance Michael Spry, W. Va. Dept. of Highways Dist. 2 Hazel Doss, Roger Bryant with LEASA, Robby Queen with Congressman Nick Joe Rahall’s office, Michael Browning U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s office, W.Va. Delegate Ted Tomblin, Logan County Sheriff Sonya Porter, Logan County Commission President Danny Godby, Logan County Commissioner Danny Ellis, Man Mayor Jim Blevins, Logan County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Doty, Logan County Board of Education Members Dr. Pat J. White and Jim Frye.
The W.Va. Department of Transportation had maps of the detour routes and photos of the construction site to illustrate the instability of the area.
Currently, there are three detour routes being used. The primary detour is W.Va. Routes 44, 80 and U.S. Route 52. This route was chosen as the primary route because it can handle the traffic and accomodate large trucks. The second, and shortest, detour is Rum Creek and Buffalo Creek Roads, which involve a trip over Kelly Mountain, which has six one-lane areas and multiple trouble spots or motorists may choose to use W. Va. Route 17 over Blair Mountain to Kelly Mountain Rd.
Most motorists are choosing to navigate through Rum Creek, over Kelly Mountain to Buffalo Creek Road. Unfortunately, the road was in a state of disrepair, with poor signage to indicate the turns and one-lane bridges or one-lane areas of the road. The W.Va. Dept. of Highways is in the process of completing repairs and paving that will cost up to half a million dollars.
Brent Walker was the first to speak at the meeting and began with the concern for safety.
“We know this project is affecting many of you. You will hear this many times tonight, but safety is the major concern. We’re often criticized for not being safe enough, but here we are being absolutely safe. We wish the situation was different, but it’s not.”
Chris Collins told the group the area of the slide was a concern before the construction.
“Before we even started working it was an area of concern because of the steep slope and jagged rock,” Collins said. “Once the contractors started working in the area it became more prevalent. The best detour we have, and I know it is not the best detour, is through Kelly Mountain.”
Tempers flared at times with comments about emergency situations, the cost of the increased commute, and the inconvence caused by delays during repairs on the Kelly Mountain detour route. Residents were anxious to be heard and voices rose as they heard explanations and reasons for the construction timing and multiple sites being under construction at the same time.
Walker tried to explain the project had been on the shelf for a number of years before it was funded and the problems occurring could not have been foreseen and were made worse by 19 of the last 21 days being rainy.
“It’s not just a matter of brushing off the rock and opening the road back up,” Walker said. “There is still 150 feet of rock on that slope that is unstable. We are putting a chunk of change in on Kelly Mountain. It isn’t the greatest detour, but it will be better. It isn’t the safest route, but it will be safer.”
Logan County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Doty re-stated the change for the approximate 30 students who would attend the vocation school. Those students will receive the same curriculum they would have received at the vocational school at Man High School. She also said they had done job switching amongst faculty and staff on a temporary basis.
As for Friday night football travel, players and other participants will miss their last class period of the day to make the trip to Gilbert and across to Route 44. Tutors have been hired and will be on hand to assist students who miss class.
Sheriff Porter said she had worked with the Logan County Commission for funding overtime to have extra patrols and officers in the Man area.
Rev. Mike Pollard spoke up to say he was a member of the Route 10 committee back in the 1990s. He was concerned with the delays on the detour and asked if they would be working 24/7.
Scott Eplin said they will be working 24/7 and that may shorten the length of time the road will be closed.
Other ideas now under consideration inlcude:
- Improving the signage on the detour route through Rum Creek and over Kelly Mountain.
- Contacting Tri River Transit about the possibility of using smaller passenger vans to taken people to and from medical appointments.
- Meeting with Southern WV Health Systems about possibly having the clinic in Man open 24 hours to meet emergency needs.
- Using a boat through LEASA to ferry people from Madison Creek to emergency vehicles if they become isolated by slides.
- Having a “Park and Ride” area for those who wish to carpool.
- Providing daily or frequent updates on progress using the local media outlets and/or social media.
- Compiling a list of services that can be utilized in the Man, Oceana or Gilbert areas.
- Re-opening one lane of the route for emergency vehicles.
Residents were encouraged to contact the construction about special needs or medical emergencies they may have.
Meeting organizer Jennifer Wilson Smith asked the group to frequent the businesses in the Man area that have been cut off by the construction and is in the process of compiling a directory of services available in the area.
Officials are supposed to take all the concerns and issues back to their superiors and discuss ways to improve the situation. Smith said she will be looking for a response in a few days.
“We are not going to let up on this. I do ask you to give them a few days to fix this dilemna. As soon as I have news from them, I will make sure you all know. We will keep after them.”
The first update expected is how long it will take to get the road re-opened if they are able to work 24/7 unimpeded.