Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 11, 2014

DOH clears one highway issue, others await

LITWAR — The West Virginia Division of Highways announced that by 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, the boulder that was blocking Rout 1 near Litwar had been cleared from the road.

“As a precaution, a crew patrolled the area through the night to observe the hillside and ensure stability,” according to a press release from Carrie Bly of the state Department of Transportation’s communications department.

But even with one problem resolved, the DOH is not out of the woods in its battle to maintain safe roads in rugged mountainous terrain that has been hammered by a difficult winter season.

Teresa Auville of Iaeger lives on Coon Branch Road — a one-lane road that has a major slip on it that drops the road off some 44 inches, and is traveled by school buses with 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. morning runs and one afternoon run after school.

“This slip is at a real steep curve,” Auville said. “When that big rock fell up at Litwar, it put a lot more traffic on Coon Branch Road. People who aren’t familiar with the road could have wrecked.”

Auville said the slip happened in early December 2013, and she has been contacting the DOT and DOH regularly since then.

“The DOH tells me they’re waiting for the utility company to come and move the power lines,” Auville said. “I have lived up here all my life and when I drive through that curve, I tighten up. You just want to stay as close to the side of the hill as you can. I have grandchildren who ride the school bus through there. I worry about them.”

Tom Camden, manager of District 10 of the DOH said he is aware of Mrs. Auville’s complaint, but repairing the road in that area will require the use of pile drivers that could potentially get too close to the power lines where the electricity can arc and endanger crews who are working on the project.

“I’m aware of the complaint, and I know it is a nasty spot,” Camden said. “In this situation, we are dependent on the utility to move the power lines so our contract crews can work there.”

Camden said that safety was a key factor in closing Route 1 before the boulder blocked Route 1 at Litwar. “We were able to get that job completed ahead of schedule and no one got hurt,” he said. “I think that highlights how fortunate we are to have people who are responsible on their jobs.”

Auville said there are about 88 people who live on Coon Branch Road. We can get the Internet, but we can’t even get safe public water,” she said. Auville said she intends to keep working to draw attention to the situation and to get the road fixed.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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