Paw Paw waits for road repair

by Kate Shunney

For the last nine months, daily travel for hundreds of county residents in the Paw Paw area has been slowed down by a road project that hasn’t even started.

Promises that a section of Paw Paw Road would be replaced after a June 3 flood have not materialized, leaving the main road into the Town of Paw Paw reduced to a single lane.

Heavy rains washed out numerous culverts in the Paw Paw area during flooding lat June. A culvert beneath the eastbound lane of Paw Paw Road was dislodged in the flooding, causing that section of pavement to collapse. Concrete barriers block off that travel lane. Temporary stop signs direct vehicles to take turns using the westbound lane.

West Virginia highway officials told The Morgan Messenger in October and again in December of 2018 that Paw Paw Road will be repaired with a custom-made culvert that should head off further flooding issues.

District engineer Lee Thorne on Monday said that culvert, made up of concrete boxes, is now fabricated. He expects the boxes to be delivered to the area within two weeks.

Thorne said the road repair will include a change in how the culvert is angled beneath the road.

A collapsed portion of Paw Paw Road remains unrepaired, nine months after it washed out.

Months of delays

Initially, Thorne said he hoped highway crews would complete the work before winter set it. Then, the project timeline shifted to February.

Now the main factors in getting the work done are weather and stream water levels, said Thorne.

Crews have to dig down to lay a rock bed for the culvert. A crane will set the concrete boxes and crews will add fill to bring the road to grade.

“We’re going to try to do half at a time to keep traffic flowing,” said Thorne.

Crews will work on the side of the road that’s already collapsed first, he said. Water levels in the stream will have to be low enough for crews to lay stone as a base.

If all things proceed normally, crews should be able to set the culvert in two weeks.

Thorne said repaving on that section of road won’t happen until paving contractors reopen their hot mix plants, likely in May.

In response to questions about the state of Paw Paw Road Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed said in an email he had been in contact with Thorne to get project details.

Reed said the County Commission has no authority over the DOH.

“[S]o the best we can do is stay in contact and offer any assistance that we can to help speed up this process,” Reed said.

Pressure on one lane

For nine months, cars, trucks, tractor-trailers, fire trucks, school buses and heavy equipment have all traveled on the good half of the road.

Concrete barriers are set into that travel lane, since there is no pavement in some spots beneath the center line.

“It’s really an inconvenience with people coming in and out of town,” said Paw Paw mayor Tina Meyers late last week. “They’re starting to worry when the other side is going to collapse.”

Thorne said he hasn’t heard any concerns from Morgan County supervisor Rodney Crowell that the travel lane is giving way.

Town officials have been told Paw Paw Road carries roughly 3,000 vehicles per day, said Mayor Meyers.

The section of road that needs repair is not inside the Paw Paw town limits, it is the main access road to the town.

Meyers pointed out that local residents, plus those from Oldtown and even Cumberland, Md. travel along that stretch daily to reach jobs in the Winchester area.

“We’re a heavy traffic area,” said Meyers. “People are wondering when it’s going to get fixed.”

A tractor trailer took its turn on a one-lane section of Paw Paw Road last week.