By Mannix Porterfield
Expect some lane-hopping and occasional slower driving in summer travel along the West Virginia Turnpike.
Portions of the Princeton-to-Charleston highway are getting a facelift.
In fact, crews already are at work on the largest project of the year — a $20 million paving job stretching from Milepost 66 to 74 northbound.
Work doesn’t end there, however, Manager Greg Barr pointed out Thursday, since crews will begin prepping toward fall southbound from Milepost 66 to 76, readying that section for paving a year from now.
“Then we’ll be doing mill and inlay paving on the higher priority areas along the entire Turnpike where the old asphalt is getting rutted or breaking up some,” he said.
“We’ll scrape off 2 or 3 inches throughout the entire highway.”
All told, the Turnpike expects to spend $24 million this year alone in maintenance — a figure that Barr said proves a legislative proposal this year was ill-conceived.
In support of a House bill that died in the Senate this week, proponents maintained that it only costs about $17 million in maintenance. Barr said the realistic figure, when all costs are figured in, such as bridge retrofits and overlays, is more like $30 million.
“Another thing is we have to replace old slabs of concrete that have either sunk or cracked,” he said.
“We have to get those cut out and replaced, so that when new asphalt is put over the top of it, faults in the old concrete won’t reflect up through the asphalt and cause it to fail.”
Barr said the decision by Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, to leave HB3163 on hold and let the Legislature examine Turnpike needs in this year’s interims meetings was the right one.
“It gives an opportunity to air all the facts,” he said.
“Plus, it gives an opportunity for the blue ribbon commission to finalize its study and present it.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s special panel is expected to release its findings this summer, after weighing in on all of West Virginia’s road needs. Beach has indicated the 88-mile toll road is likely to be a component in the commission’s work.
“You don’t want to go into just guessing at it like some people, throwing out numbers that they can maintain the Turnpike for $6 million a year,” Barr said.
“You’ve got to go into it with eyes wide open and know what the costs are and how it’s going to be done.”
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