West Virginia DOH plans new Jackson County rest stop

Local projects discussed in meeting

Photo by Evan Bevins West Virginia Division of Highways District 3 maintenance engineer Dave Burris, right, answers a question from state Delegate Vernon Criss, center, as Delegate Ray Hollen listens during a discussion of highway projects and road funding Thursday at the District 3 headquarters in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — The West Virginia Department of Transportation intends to turn a damaged rest area on Interstate 77 into a truck parking area and establish a new rest stop in Jackson County.

That was one of several projects discussed Thursday during a presentation by DOT personnel on the Roads to Prosperity program and how projects are chosen and funds distributed.

Wood County was the focus of the first meeting Thursday and fourth overall over the course of two days of presentations on the counties of the Division of Highways’ District 3. Jackson, Roane and Pleasants County were featured Wednesday afternoon, with Wirt, Ritchie and Calhoun following Wood on Thursday.

After a description of the funding mechanisms and priorities for not only the Roads to Prosperity projects to be funded by the sale of voter-approved bonds but regular maintenance and repair work as well, DOT officials took questions from the audience, which largely consisted of members of the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate.

Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said he’s gotten a number of questions from constituents about the northbound rest stop on I-77 south of Mineral Wells. A van crashed into it in December, and the facility has not reopened since.

“There (are) a lot of people in Parkersburg who use that rest area coming north,” Criss said. “We’ve had no communication other than the fact that the gentleman ran into the building.”

Greg Bailey, deputy state highway engineer, said it would take a substantial investment to reopen the facility.

“We don’t believe it makes sense, economically, to go back in there and spend a lot of money,” he said.

Instead, the state intends to use property purchased several years ago along I-77 in Jackson County as a new rest stop site and convert the current one into an area for trucks to park.

Criss also asked about the travel lane on the southbound portion of the Williamstown Bridge, which has been closed for several months after the span was struck underneath by a truck.

“We’ve got first impression problems when you come across the state line and the first thing you see is orange cones,” he said.

Roten said the contract for that repair, which will be reimbursed by insurance, will go to bid next month.

Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, said the DOH owns multiple properties in the state that are not being used. He specifically questioned one in Mineral Wells, for which the former property owner has offered $500,000 to reacquire.

Bailey said the state paid more than that for the property and state law plays a part in determining what a sale price could be.

Hollen said such properties will be looked at closely in the upcoming legislative session. Deputy Transportation Secretary Jill Newman said the department is working with the legislative auditor on that issue.