Crews are moving the proper monitoring equipment and traffic signs into place along Interstate 70 in Ohio County, W.Va., between the Pennsylvania state line and the visitors center as Tunnel Ridge Coal Co. is scheduled to move its longwall mining operations beneath the highway in that area by early next week.
West Virginia Division of Highways Area Engineer Mike Witherow confirmed Wednesday that longwall mining operations are expected to proceed below that section of interstate as soon as this weekend, but is more likely to occur next week.
He said while the mining is not currently beneath the highway, it is getting close to the I-70 embankment. He said DOH officials are entering the monitoring phase of the project once again as the mining approaches the highway.
“They are approaching the interstate and we’re anticipating that they will move under the interstate embankment sometime next week. They are going to extend right up to it by Friday,” Witherow said. “We know for sure it will be (by) sometime next week – so there is a little bit of a window there depending on how much production they get this week.”
Witherow said DOH officials met with coal company officials recently to discuss plans to monitor the surface once again as the next coal panel was scheduled to run beneath I-70 just after Labor Day weekend.
Earlier this year motorists encountered delays for more than two months near the same location on both sides of the state line as the coal company performed longwall mining operations hundreds of feet below the highway, which prompted subsidence issues that required repairs to cracks and compression bumps, and around-the-clock monitoring by DOH officials.
Along a stretch of highway where the speed limit is normally 70 mph, crews with Mid Atlantic Maintenance started changing speed limit signs in both directions throughout the work zone Wednesday to 45 mph for safety reasons. According to Witherow, it is expected to stay at 45 mph throughout the “monitoring” phase of the project.
“We’re going to monitor that 24/7. We will have a contractor that will be on site all the time,” Witherow said. “They are going to be out there day and night watching and making sure to try and identify if anything needs addressed.”
He added the DOH will be staging additional equipment at the work zone later this week in the event they would need to make any immediate repairs to the highway.
Several weeks ago, contractor Kelly Paving constructed several “relief joints” on the interstate in that area as part of the DOH being proactive to mitigate any damage that may happen as a result of the longwall mining.