RANSON — It’s been delayed by water and sewer lines and even a sinkhole, but Ranson’s newest roundabout is scheduled to be fully open before the middle of next month, according to a state Department of Transportation official.
Brent Walker, director of communications for the WVDOT, says the contract for the Charles Town Race Track Access Road project ends May 31 but will be extended until work is completed on the project on either June 10 or 11.
The roundabout itself opened May 2. It connects the existing Flowing Springs Road to Fifth Avenue and lets motorists access W.Va. 9. A spoke from the roundabout that links to Fifth Avenue is still being worked on, Walker said, adding Fifth Avenue needs to be resurfaced and improvements are now being made to the casino entrance.
Work on the project began in February 2013 but met with delays because water and sewer lines had to be moved, said Kevin Johnson of Jefferson Asphalt in Charles Town, which was awarded the contract for the $5.4 million.
District 5 Project Supervisor Matthew Berner said rerouting utility lines added about $1 million to the project’s cost. He said the state has picked up about $1 million for the cost of the project, with the Federal Highway Administration paying for the balance — about $5 million.
“The utility relocation and encasement was truly the only large change between the plans and the work in the field,” Berner said. “The West Virginia Division of Highways has taken steps to reduce the cost of the project where possible. By only using steel conduit for the electrical lighting in a few choice locations and replacing the remaining lighting conduit with PVC pipe, the state was able to save roughly $30,000.”
Another wrinkle was added to progress on the roundabout when Fifth Avenue was closed on May 5 after a sinkhole was discovered near Railroad Avenue and the casino entrance.
Berner said work crews were aware of the void but the depth and size of it proved more problematic than anticipated. The sinkhole was determined to be about 12 feet deep after spelunkers from Tri-State Grotto volunteered to climb down into it, said Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the WVDOT.
Work began May 19 to repair the sinkhole. She said work crews were able to remove the box culvert sections and excavate the throat of the sinkhole with the excavation extending about 25 feet below the bottom of the stream bed in the area.
Bly said a leaking city water line has been identified as the likely culprit.
“A Ranson city crew relocated a water line around the box culverts,” she said. “Our crew filled the sinkhole using geo-textile fabric and stone.”
Bly said the cost for repairing the sinkhole is $100,000. She said casino management has agreed to pay the cost of removing and resetting the box culverts, as well as the cost to extend the concrete channel lining.
Fifth Avenue reopened May 23.
Walker said WVDOT is offering help both online and with road signage to familiarize motorists with how to navigate their way through a turning circle. He said drivers can access information about roundabouts on the Department’s website at transportation.wv.gov.
“We will also be leaving up signs to direct people and make them aware of the changes in traffic patterns,” Walker said.
Berner said the road realignment is expected to take pressure off a number of trouble spots along Fifth Avenue.
“(It) will provide a clear entrance to the casino from Route 9 and reduce pedestrian and equestrian conflicts related to the employee parking lot and practice track, respectively,” he said. Berner said the new roundabout should allow traffic to flow more freely while providing a safer intersection as a result of its curved design and one-way traffic that reduces the chance of T-bone and head-on collisions.
He said the new roundabout is also much closer to W.Va. 9 than the previous intersection, which should reduce the urge of motorists to cut through the nearby Holiday Inn Express parking lot.