POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Commission’s most recent meeting consisted of a full agenda, including an update on the progress of U.S. 35.
First up was Cliff Farley from the West Virginia Division of Highways who spoke about the $174-million project to expand the remaining 14.6 miles of U.S. 35 from two to four lanes.
He said the completion date for this first phase of work, which is grade and drain, is Oct. 31, 2018. The actual paving phase will likely take place in 2018 with drivers possibly driving on the road in 2020, according to other DOH officials in the room. Those officials included Aaron Gillispie, state highway engineer, Todd Rumbaugh, deputy highway engineer, Gary Mullins, district one engineer.
Farley said there are 22 subcontractors on the job and around 300 people working on the project at various points. There are 16.8 million cubic tons of earth to be moved on the U.S. 35 project, with about half of that done at this point. There are 7.3 miles of pipe to be installed, with that pipe varying in sizes from 12 inches in diameter to 16 feet in diameter. There are also four sets of twin bridges to be built, one at Plantation Creek Road which will have access to the new four lane; one at Black Oak Road which will have no access to the new four lane, with the old road going under the bridge; one at Little Sixteen Mile Creek which will have access to the new four lane with the old road going under the bridge; one at Cornstalk Road which will have no access to the four lane.
During comments from the public, resident Kyle McCausland said there are property owners like himself along U.S. 35 which have only the option of a right turn in and out, but no option of a left hand turn which allows drivers to travel either directions on the new road. He also stated there was an issue of not having use of access roads to the new four lane which will be used by Appalachian Electric Power that were on his family’s property. McCausland said AEP got the original easement to this property around 20 years ago.
Rumbuagh said AEP, not DOH would’ve purchased right-of-way access to those roads. He speculated this restriction could be because of a security issue, as far as AEP was concerned. He said AEP could grant McCausland access but not DOH. Commissioner Rick Handley asked Steve Stewart, who is with AEP and was at the meeting, to find out who McCausland and others could speak to about using these roads on their property. McCausland said AEP’s towers came from the back of his family’s property. McCausland said he and his family had been using those roads for 20 years and AEP has access to the new four lane with new access roads but they do not.
Mason County 911 and Office of Emergency Services Director Dennise Zimmerman also asked DOH to be aware of some reported flooding issues in the area of Plantation Road and Pond Branch Road. He said there’s been no property damage or formal complaints and he realized the project was still under constructions.
Handley brought up the “four letter word” which was “toll” with no officials indicating the road would be a toll road. Delegate Scott Brewer who was at the meeting said he didn’t anticipate or expect a toll on the road.
Gillespie also spoke to a comment about the interchange at the Buffalo Bridge, saying a design study was being done for that area.
Farley said DOH officials would be glad to return to the county commission every six months to discuss progress on the project.
Commissioners Tracy Doolittle, Sam Nibert and Handley were in attendance for last week’s regular meeting.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.