BURLINGTON, W.Va. — State Division of Highways District 5 District Engineer Lee Thorne said the list of roads that need repaired in the seven counties his office covers created a six-inch high stack that’s been handed over to state officials.
Thorne’s district, along with the other nine, met the Friday afternoon 72-hour deadline set by Gov. Jim Justice earlier this week. The Department of Transportation said the information submitted measured 21 inches high. A review would take place over the weekend.
Thorne said his staff prioritized the repairs in a couple of different ways. First, by traffic volume.
“If you don’t take care of the ones the majority of the public travels on, and you only address the ones with 10 cars a day or 50 cars a day, then you’re not serving as much of the public as you can with the money you have,” Thorne said during an appearance Friday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “We do try to prioritize based on the traffic volumes and work our way down.”
District 5 has also prioritized its list according to speed limits allowed on certain highways.
“The same pothole on a 55 mph road versus a road that’s at 25 mph can cause a whole lot more damage and possibly an accident,” Thorne said. “We work from there and try to work our way down as well.”
Thorne’s maintenance engineer and others also tried to make the list easy for state officials to understand.
“We prepared a checklist where they could put the road name down and then check off what needed to be done on each of those roads,” Thorne said.
He said every road requires some maintenance.
“It’s just where do you start to prioritize it to get it done,” Thorne said.
District 5, which covers Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral and Morgan counties, has similar problems as other DOH districts including a difficult time recruiting equipment operators and having enough equipment to keep up with maintenance.
“We are operating at the same revolving fund for our equipment purchases as we have for at least 10 years, maybe more,” Thorne said. “We really don’t have backup equipment if we break down.”
He said the goal is to ditch every road once every three years. He said the district has been fortunate the last two years because it’s had money left over from its snow and ice removal budget, which is 26 percent of the district’s $8 million maintenance budget.
Gov. Justice has promised an “avalanche” of work on secondary roads once the state receives the lists from district engineers and county supervisors.
Thorne said his district will be ready. He said DOH employees are hard-working and take pride in what they do. He said they face varying circumstances daily.
“There’s a lot of changes and a lot of adjustments that have to be done every single day to try and stay productive and I don’t think the public sees that or is aware of it,” Thorne said.