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WSAZ Investigates | Website Roadblock

WSAZ Investigates | Website Roadblock
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - We’ve been showing you roads neighbors say have long since been a problem. When they reach out to West Virginia state officials for answers, they say they aren’t able to get them.

Now the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) launched its online map with all the projects they’re working on this year -- a map they say you can use to find out when work will happen on your road.

As WSAZ’s Marlee Pinchok discovered, though, neighbors say that website has some roadblocks.

We’ve shown you several road slips in West Virginia that neighbors say have only gotten worse over time. Their stories are similar -- they tell us they’ve tried to reach out to the WVDOH for answers multiple times.

However, they do not get any closer to finding out when their road is going to be fixed.

“Personally, as an elected official, have never been given a set date or time or any sort of plan as to when these projects are gonna start,” said West Virginia State Del. Jordan Bridges, R-Logan.

Many neighbors -- desperate for answers -- say that’s when they reached out to WSAZ, hoping we can help.

Marlee Pinchok started calling, texting and emailing a spokesperson with the WVDOH to see what she could find out.

In one of the replies from the WVDOH, a spokesperson sent an email saying in part, “Citizens who have questions about where specific roads fall on scheduled work can visit our website transportation.wv.gov.”

So, Pinchok went over to the website to try and get more information, in hopes of helping neighbors navigate the website to get more details about their roads and, if and when, they’ll be fixed.

At the time, she found the website only showed road projects for 2019, 2020, and 2021-- but nothing for 2022.

Pinchok reached back out to the WVDOH spokesperson, asking if the agency could show or explain how to find the current road projects for 2022. She emailed not once, twice, but three times during the course of three days.

Finally, getting a response, the spokesperson said the 2022 map won’t be released until the spring. Then about two weeks ago, the WVDOH launched the 2022 map. So, we pulled up the website to check it out.

We picked a road that a neighbor emailed us about, saying in part, “I live on Plymale Branch Road in Huntington, West Virginia. Our road is closed-- the problem with that is, if the road floods, we are stuck in or out.”

That neighbor also sent us a picture showing the road is crumbling and impassable. On the road map online, Plymale Branch Road shows up pink and says it’s scheduled for patching from April to June. However, it says completed on the state website.

So, we hopped in the car and headed out to Plymale Branch to see if the work is finished there. During Pinchok’s drive along Plymale Branch, she noticed numerous spots have been patched.

However, she eventually had to pump the brakes when she got to the spot neighbors were telling us about -- as that part of the road is still closed.

So, Pinchok went to speak with neighbors about what she found on the map and the condition of the road. One of those neighbors is Terry Sutton.

“I just can’t believe they put up a sign that says ‘road closed’ that you would say that it’s completed … if the road closed sign is still up then it’s not completed,” Sutton said.

He said he did see crews out working one day a couple of weeks ago, but he has not seen them since that time.

Since the WVDOH told us to direct our viewers to the website for updates on road projects, we sat down with Sutton and pulled it up. He said it’s extremely misleading.

“This website is not giving us any information, other than that they’re doing paving which is not going to help the slip, Sutton said. “Aah, it definitely causes confusion, but it’s frustrating too. It’s like well, what’s going on -- you tell me. It’s completed, but it’s a paving project. OK, you patched some of the holes. But that’s not the major problem. The major problem is that there is a big hole in the middle of the road, so you need to take care of that … and they need to get out and get organized. And get the job done. Whatever it takes.”

We reached out to a DOH spokesperson regarding clarity for work along Plymale Branch and received this response:

“On the map, a project may be listed on a road where there are additional projects. The map reflects those that are far enough along in the process to have scheduled on-the-ground work at a specific time. For the slide on Plymale Branch, core borings and survey data has been received and we are finalizing the design of the wall but we do not yet have a schedule for when the onsite work will begin. When the work is scheduled on-the-ground, it will be added to the website, which is updated every two weeks.”

We also asked the DOH if they plan on adding expanding the map to include planned projects that are in the early stages, so neighbors at least know the agency is aware of the issue.

This is the reply we got Wednesday from a spokesperson with DOH:

“Thanks for that suggestion Marlee. The short answer is yes. A few years ago we didn’t have the map or any project lists on the website at all. We had to build it internally, and not only the technology itself, troubleshooting and making sure it works, but a system of gathering the information from our Districts all across the state, verifying, comparing, making sure everything’s accurate before we put it on the website. Roads to Prosperity really put our whole system in high gear. As we are catching up years of underfunding on the roadways themselves, we are also building the systems within the agency to help us catch up more quickly. That includes everything from hiring, and retaining employees, training them and getting them the equipment they need to finding the efficiencies in data and the way information flows and is organized and shared. We’ve undergone a complete shift in how we work together, analyze, find the best strategies. Getting information onto the website and maintaining our citizen assistance response system (the 833-WVROADS phone number and making sure everyone’s questions are answered within seven days) — which is also new within the last few years— is all part of that and it’s all connected. We are going to continue in that direction, to make things more user-friendly, with more information that’s easier to understand and share. In the coming years, you’ll see it more and more, just like you’re seeing the pace of roadwork pick up. We’re all for that, and we’re continuing to build on what we have.”

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