CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the West Virginia Turnpike gains in age, the highway is starting to experience problems maintenance crews have never had to address. The most conspicuous is taller trees starting to fall across the roadway. The problem is particularly pronounced in the narrow and remote stretch between the Mossy and Mahan exits of the highway.
“During the original construction in the 50’s and in the 70’s and 80’s when it was widened those trees were removed,” said Turnpike Consulting Engineer Randy Epperly. “Now they’ve started growing back and in 40 years they’ve gotten to be substantial sized trees.”
The taller trees have reached a point when they fall in a storm, they are long enough to cause an obstruction in the roadway. The concrete median barrier there has made missing some of them impossible and downed trees have been the catalyst for a number of lane closures this summer.
Earlier this month, for the first time in history, the state Parkways Authority contracted to have the trees removed. During the past the tree trimming along the rights of way was handled by Turnpike maintenance staff, but in this area Epperly said that isn’t the best option.
“There will be a lot of climbing and scaling of the hillside, so it’s very difficult, dangerous work,” Epperly said. “So rather than using Turnpike forces, we decided to let a contract and get somebody who professionally does that kind of work.”
Work to clear the hillside in the area will begin in September. It’s identified by Epperly as the most difficult area for tree falls, but he says there are others in need of attention. If using contractors for the trimming proves to work well, they may use other contractors in other hard to reach places as well.