Road repairs a bumpy ride for Washington County officials
MARIETTA — The past two winters have been catastrophic for rural roads in Washington County, and local governments are still trying to get out from under the load of immediate repairs needed.
Washington County engineer Roger Wright said Wednesday flooding and severe weather caused 160 landslips in total over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 winter seasons.
“This year my staff has been consumed in recovering from that disaster,” Wright said. Repairing the damage involves not only the road work itself but also working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which in combination with the Ohio Department of Transportation is funding up to 90 percent of the cost on some repairs.
Wright estimated that about a third of the repairs have been completed, another third are at some stage of work, and the remainder are under contract.
“A lot of the large ones we got done in 2018, but the 2019 slips are larger in scope and size,” he said. “We’ve tried to apply our own judgment in consultation with the townships and fix as many as we could before winter. And, we’ll do some more work during the winter as weather allows.”
Getting the work scheduled is a balancing act, he said. The larger projects involving FEMA funding tend to be delaying as the county awaits approval.
“The townships have been very cooperative,” he said. “We try to look at traffic, how much of the road is remaining, with safety in mind. With FEMA, the approvals have to go through Texas, and sometimes the roads with the worst problems were the ones where the approval lagged. We asked the townships to set their priorities, and also there are only so many contractors to do the work, and we didn’t want to inundate them with small jobs when there were bigger ones waiting.”
Some of the projects had to go ahead regardless of FEMA funding, he said.
“For some of the landslips on county roads we were able to mobilize a contractor and get them repaired, and we didn’t necessarily want to wait on FEMA,” he said. “Some already had funding approval, and there were others, new ones that we just didn’t want to get any larger. It was a struggle to balance all that.”
Once a landslip occurs, the road bed and surrounding hillside tend to become less stable over time and the landslip can grow unless it’s repaired.
“On County Road 11, half the road had started to leave, and it was on a school bus route, so we made that a priority,” Wright said.
He said 15 county road projects remain, with eight of those being paving, as winter approaches, along with numerous township road projects.
“We’ll use the same methodology going into 2020, balance what’s funded with what’s a priority, what we can fix, what’s eligible, and what you want to fix,” he said.
Meanwhile, in addition to responding to roads with disastrous failures, the county has its regular maintenance schedule which is designed to prevent other roads from failing.
Pavement usually has a 10-year life under normal circumstances, and Wright said his department begins looking at roads when they hit year seven, considering them for crack sealing or chip seal to preserve the pavement integrity and extend its life. Chip seal, he said, costs about $15,000 a mile, in contrast to repaving with asphalt, which is about five times that cost. By investing in the maintenance process, it’s possible under good conditions to double the life of the pavement.
“We have a pavement condition index we use, with 100 as the best score, a newly paved road, and 50 being a road that’s about to fail. We start looking at them when they get around 60,” he said.
The county also has managed to complete some smaller safety projects, including centerline painting, signage and installation of reflectors on some of the guardrails on curves, Wright said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation had its share of road repairs this year as well.
Highlights include the completion of repairs on massive landslide damage on State Route 7 east of Marietta between Reynolds Run and Davis Run roads. The section of road was for months reduced to single land traffic controlled by a signal.
“This project, in particular, we were glad to see completed this construction season,” ODOT District 10 public information officer Ashley Rittenhouse said. “One lane of the road was closed for an extended period of time, and we appreciate drivers’ patience.”
The agency also provided funding, construction administration and engineering, environmental and design reviews for the recently finished extension of the River Trail across Duck Creek from Jefferson Street to Cogswell Lane. Pedestrians and bicyclists can now use the trail to access the commercial area east of I-77 without the risk of walking or pedaling along Pike Street where it crosses underneath the interstate.
A bridge replacement project on State Route 550 between Johnson and Silver Globe roads continues, Rittenhouse said, with one lane open.
For 2020, the agency’s plans include intersection, paving and drainage work in various locations around the county:
* State Route 7 between Captain D Seeley MIA Drive and County House Lane, intersection lighting, signal controllers and pavement markings, to be completed in May.
* Resurfacing from the Ohio River bridge to the State Route 821 exits on I-77, estimated completion by the end of September.
* Traffic control improvements on State Route 7 at Farson Street and Braun Road, and State Route 618 at Lee Street. In place of the “stop when flashing” signal system, traffic detection equipment will be installed that monitors vehicles going through the intersection that changes the lights based on that information. The project is scheduled for completion at the end of June.
* Culvert work is scheduled for several locations on I-77 and state routes 7, 260, 339 and 550, with completion expected by the first of July.
* Resurfacing is planned on State Route 339 between the intersection of State Route 618 and Veto, with completion expected by the end of July.
* Drainage work is to be done on State Route 7 between River Road and Pearl Street, with a completion date of Oct. 1.
Michael Kelly can be contacted at email@example.com.