HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Anyone who lives in Huntington knows how critical downtown underpasses are to the city’s transportation commute.
They also know how often traffic becomes a mess because those underpasses frequently flood.
Monday, the city posted signs warning of resuming construction on a project they hope will solve the problem.
The underpasses in question are on 8th Street and 10th Street.
Large electronic message signs are up by the 8th Street underpass, signaling the start of a large—nearly one and a half million dollar—construction project.
“This is our warning that we’re about to close down this road to do this work,” says Brian Bracey, the executive director of the Huntington Water Quality Board.
The Huntington Sanitary Board is resuming work on the drainage systems in the underpasses so that the decades-old flooding hazard will be reduced.
“Underneath the underpasses, the catch basins that actually hold that water and transperse it out to the wastewater treatment plant is a combined system. So it’s both storm water and sewer water together. So in heavy rain events, the pipes are inundated with the flow of the water and the water has nowhere to go so it fills up in the bottom of the underpasses,” Bracey says.
The plan is to separate the two pipes so the rain water flows in a dedicated line into Fourpole Creek and ultimately the Ohio River.
To do this, they will be closing off the 8th Street underpass to both cars and pedestrians on April 5th.
“We’re anticipating roughly 30 days of construction time for this to occur as long as mother nature holds off and doesn’t provide us any rain,” Bracey says.
Locals in the area say they think the project is ultimately a good idea.
“Any time you make an improvement like that there’s a short-term inconvenience. I think the improvements are much needed,” says James McClelland, a resident of Huntington.
Not only will this project potentially reduce the risk of drivers getting caught in the floodwaters—it will significantly benefit the emergency responders in the community as well.
“Huntington is divided by railroad tracks—goes right down the middle of Huntington. When the underpass floods, accessibility to either side is very limited, and if we have to go to the further ends—the east or west end of the city—it takes us longer on a response. This is a positive thing that we’re trying, hopefully this will resolve the problems,” says Gordon Merry, the director of Cabell County Emergency Management Services.
Once the construction is completed on the 8th Street underpass, the signs will be moved to 10th Street and construction will begin there.
If you drive in the area, officials urge you to figure out an alternate route in your commute.