Economic development is always a plus for West Virginia, but a growth spurt in Fayette County has made one intersection a little too tricky for motorists.
The dangerous intersection is located near a booming shopping area along Lochgelly Road in Oak Hill. A $17-million project to make the intersection more user-friendly for motorists got under way in the summer of 2006 and is slated for substantial completion later this year.
“The project is necessary to relieve problems at an intersection that has exceeded its design capacity and is experiencing a large number of traffic incidents,” said Martin Dougherty, design project manager of District 9 of the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH). “Crews will continue to work throughout the winter, weather permitting.”
The work is being completed by general contractor Ahern & Associates of South Charleston, W.Va. Gene Thompson, vice president of Ahern, said the project involves building a new intersection in the Fayette County area where numerous shopping centers and malls cluster near U.S. Route 19 in Oak Hill.
“Route 19 is a heavily traveled road and this is a very busy intersection,” said Thompson. “This project is necessary because of the tremendous amount of traffic congestion.”
The project, which will eliminate the existing intersection, includes the construction of a grade-separated interchange consisting of one bridge and four ramps. In addition, a portion of W.Va. Route 16 will be relocated off U.S. 19, one access road will be constructed and a shopping center access road will be relocated.
“One unusual aspect of this project is that the DOH is required to provide compensatory mitigation to replace a wetland that was unintentionally created when the original roadway and shopping center embankments were built,” said Dougherty.
“Among the challenges is the fact that the interchange is being built under traffic. The topography is such that all of the flatter lands have already been taken by the existing roadway embankment and commercial development, leaving little room to build the necessary erosion and sediment-control measures.”
More than half of the excavation work has been completed, all of the large drainage structures are in place and the contractor is on schedule. The primary obstacles for the project, according to Dougherty, include the fact that all of the fill areas were wetlands and the excavated material has to be hauled across U.S. 19 between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Thompson said Ahern crews are working 10 hours a day five days per week to ensure the successful completion of the project.
“When the project is completed, there will be a new bridge and ramps that will allow controlled access in lieu of the traffic signal that is there now,” said Thompson. “Right now, it’s an at-grade intersection with a traffic signal on the four-lane U.S. 19, which is a major thoroughfare, and there is a busy shopping center nearby.
“When motorists are flying down U.S. 19, they have to stop at the red light. We are building an overpass over the highway with ramps to make the area safer.” CEG