Patched portion of Jakes Run Road collapses

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A potholed portion of Jakes Run Road that had caught the attention of Monongalia County’s five delegates in late March and was then patched has since collapsed.

The affected stretch is about a half-mile in from West Virginia Route 7, on the southbound side of the road. On the opposite side, a stream has carved its way down the hillside, where it drains into a culvert that runs under the road.

The ditch here is deeper and wider than along much of Jakes Run, but the culvert didn’t drain the road well enough. On the slide side, where before it merely jutted out, it’s now starting to dangle and bend a bit.

The state Division of Highways has the slide cordoned off with orange cones and yellow caution tape – one of the cones has plunged down the steep hill to the creek below – and has one-lane-road warning signs posted ahead of the slide at both ends.

Responding to inquiries about the slide, DOH spokesman Brent Walker said in a Monday email exchange, “There are several slips along Jakes Run Road. We have had several fixed using the Soil Nails process. The slip you are referring to happened shortly after we had repairs made to others. Yes, we are aware and hope to make repairs to it shortly.”

He was unable to supply further details about the nature or cost or timing of the planned repair for this report.

Soil nailing, according to engineering sources, is a means of stabilizing a slope by driving large bars, called nails, into a slope, and attaching them to a solid face.

This section of road originally drew the delegates’ attention when they took a pothole tour of western Mon County with road consultants from Salem-based Inca Roads. The Dominion Post contacted the delegates and Inca Roads about the slide, and the contact happened to coincide with the delivery of an Inca Roads report to Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, who helped set up the tour and a subsequent tour of eastern Mon.

A photo accompanying the March story on the tour showed Delegate Danielle Walker standing in a pothole in this sketchy section between some S-curves, where water is washing away the hillside and half of a lane was gone for a stretch.

We reported in May that the section had been patched, though the DOH did not say at the time when the work was done.

“This situation is horrifying,” Fleischauer said this week. “I know that slides are expensive to fix, and that there are hundreds. But parents who must travel on that road, whose children are riding the school bus, deserve to have this fixed asap. Let’s not wait for something awful to happen.”

Here are comments from the other delegates:

Evan Hansen: “I appreciate the paving that’s been completed this summer, but this shows how much work remains to be done in the western part of the county, and all across the county. If simple maintenance isn’t done to direct water off the roads, then we’re faced with more expensive problems like this. Unfortunately, it may take years to catch up, after all the years when roads weren’t patched, ditched, and mowed when they should have been.”

Rodney Pyles: “I went there in March with the other delegates because we had heard that this was one of the worst roads in the county. This turned out to be the case, and now things are a lot worse, with a portion of the road lost in a slide caused by drainage problems that should have been addressed a long time ago. Hopefully, with the help of the consultants who were with us, the DOH can begin receiving some advice on the fixes needed for maintenance of this road.”

John Williams: “I’m angry about the slide on Jake’s Run Road. Particularly since it was such a known problem. It seems that no matter how many phone calls or emails are made, these problems continue to occur. If the state of West Virginia had a more equitable way of distributing road funds, slides like this one could have been prevented. Addressing the funding formula is the key element to not only repairing the deplorable road conditions that we now face, but it is also key in preventing this situation from ever happening again.”

Walker could not be reached for comment.

Inca Roads sent its report to Fleischauer early Tuesday and she hadn’t had a chance to review it or share it with her colleagues, so it will be the subject of a future story.

However, Inca Roads owner Abby Childs did include a sentence in the report about the slide, using pictures supplied by The Dominion Post to illustrate the discussion. She said, “It is possible that the additional weight of the [patching] material installed, necessarily thick to accommodate the significant elevation difference, contributed to further sliding in this area.”

Speaking in general about slides, Childs said in hilly regions, roads are closely connected with destabilized slopes and landslide risk.

Such issues as steep topography, accumulated material building up from the foot of a slope, high groundwater levels and seepage, and stormwater runoff can all contribute to instability. “Heavy rainfall with surface water runoff and infiltration is the triggering mechanism for these types of failures.”

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