By Lyra Bordelon
Route 219 is receiving a $2 million dollar facelift, complete with new paving, surfacing, water drainage, and a huge change to the entrance of the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. Stretching from Burger King to McDonalds, the project is expected to be complete in approximately a month, utilizing single lane closures on the two-lane, one-way road.
“The overall scope of the project is to eliminate the high water flooding concerns we have in that area that could hinder or even block access to the hospital and provide just a better roadway for the residents here,” explained Steve Cole, DOH district engineer and manager. “In Fairlea we have issues with ponding water, drainage issues. Any time we get a substantial storm, we have high water, so we wanted to take this opportunity and hopefully correct that.”
The project would also see big changes to Route 219’s intersection with Davis Stuart Road in front of the hospital, restructuring a strange intersection.
“[There will be] added safety for the hospital there with Davis Stuart Road,” Cole said. “The hospital currently has three driveways. The intersection right there in front of the hospital [has] some sight distance issues, it can be confusing for people out of town, so we’re doing some changes there. … That middle driveway will be eliminated in an effort to improve those.”
In March, Congress passed the CARES Act in order to provide funds to the many parties affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using federal CARES Act money, Governor Jim Justice instructed the West Virginia Department of Highways (DOH) to create the Medical Access Road program in order to improve hospital accessibility.
“These projects focus heavily on paving, drainage, slips, slides, and any other issue that may make it difficult for emergency personnel to respond to calls,” said Justice. “We want to correct these issues and provide ease of access to medical services for all West Virginians.”
The Route 219 improvements encompasses the program’s efforts in Greenbrier County.
“Money’s being spent down here by the governor,” explained Doug Lucas, the DOH supervisor on the worksite. “They wanted work around a road going into a hospital, so that’s the reason we picked Route 219. We’re going to come in and resurface it, repave it.”
Cole explained the district, covering five counties, received approximately $5.6 million through the program. About $2 million will be spent in Greenbrier County on the Route 219 project.
But why Route 219? A common sight after heavy rain in Fairlea is Route 219 covered in water, which can interfere with transportation to and from the hospital. The way the land drains water in Fairlea is at fault, and the DOH project hopes to fix this issue.
“You don’t see many above ground streams in Greenbrier County, so the majority of our drainage is injected underground, either through sinkholes or … injection points,” Cole explained. “We have quite a few of those in the Fairlea area, and we’re going to upgrade those. We’re hoping to add a few injection points to get rid of the water and keep it out of the roadway.”
Once the drainage improvements are in place, the DOH will bring in a contractor to repave and resurface the stretch of road.
In order for the state to be eligible for $50 million in CARES Act federal funding, the Medical Access Roads projects much be completed by the end of 2020. According to Cole, this deadline should be easy to meet.
“We’ve been out there working for two weeks, we’ve probably got another week or two of work left with our forces, then we will have a contractor to come in and pave,” Cole said. “We’re looking to be done in the next three to four weeks.”
Although the road work will continue through that time, Cole explained traffic is not expected to be diverted. Instead, one side of the road will be worked on at a time.
“We do lane closures, we’ll be operating with one way traffic,” Cole said. “We’re very aware that school is in session, and we’ll accommodate that, but we would appreciate if the public would bare with us. Be patient and we’ll be out of the way soon enough.”
Between water issues and damage to the road, the new work is a welcome sight for those that frequent Fairlea. A complete list of the Medical Access Roads projects can be found online at https://transportation.wv.gov/Pages/MARP.aspx.