SUNDIAL, W.Va. — There remains no projected reopening date for state Route 3 in Raleigh County where a massive rock slide took place Dec. 27 near Sundial.
The DOH opened the work site to reporters Friday.
The huge boulders have been broken up into thousands of smaller rocks but the project has become more than just clearing a highway.
“If this was a matter of just coming down here and clearing the rocks from the road we would’ve been out of here weeks ago,” DOH Senior Engineer Adviser Jimmy Wriston said. “The truth is we need to get this stuff off of here so the traveling public can feel safe when we get the road back open.”
The extensive work includes stabilizing the rocky hillside above where the boulders were located. Contractors have built a temporary access road to that site. A retaining wall also had to be constructed to keep the rocks from going into the river below following concerns expressed by the state DEP.
Wriston said the site has a number of challenges.
“This one’s tough,” he said. “We’re confined by a river. We’re confined by the road. We’re confined by the steep embankment and all of these rocks and shallow earth up there, a massive amount of material.”
Engineers have concluded the boulders that fell did so because wind, rain, thawing and freezing over the years loosened smaller rocks around them.
Wriston said the progression of the project should speed up once they can go to 24-hour shifts. He says the hillside work above the highway is too dangerous to do at night. In the meantime, he said, crews try to leave the road each evening with a least a path for first responders.
“If one absolutely had to get through, we could accommodate them in some fashion,” Wriston said.
The road closure creates about a one-hour detour for residents who use Route 3. State Route 1 is being used as an alternate route.