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WSAZ Investigates | Broken Boulevard

WSAZ Investigates | Broken Boulevard
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Buckling, cracking, and slipping-- that’s how families describe one road in North Charleston.

Neighbors say Blaine Boulevard started slipping toward the Kanawha River a few years ago. However it’s only gotten worse over time.

“About a year ago they came down and they patched over top of the crack here. They covered the crack up, try to seal it and it’s done slipped that much more. About seven, eight inches more since they put the patch over top of it,” Robbie Hendricks said.

Hendricks says he keeps a close eye on how much of Blaine Boulevard is breaking off. It’s a road in North Charleston he’s lived on for more than 30 years.

“It wasn’t this bad then, but it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks said he tried to reach out to the city numerous times to see when a permanent fix is going to be made. However, he hasn’t gotten any clarity.

“We’ve contacted the city time after time after time, and they just never do nothing to it. They put more blacktop on it and patch the holes and it’s more weight. It’s more pressure and it just keeps on going,” Hendricks said.

“It’s a time bomb waiting to happen,” Ronnie Gurnee said.

The longer neighbors wait for a permanent fix to get underway, they start to lose hope.

“We are forgotten down here,” Gurnee said.

So, WSAZ’s Marlee Pinchok went to Charleston City Engineer Chris Knox to find out what’s being done.

Knox says the city started working with the Army Corps of Engineers a few years ago, but it didn’t work out.

“It was determined that the project was too expensive for that bank of money, Section 14 is what they refer to it as. So, right now we are in the process of contacting some state and federal agencies to see if they can help with the project also,” Knox said.

After Pinchok showed Knox a picture of a concrete portion of Blaine Boulevard that is lifting and caving -- Knox said he would have crews temporarily repair the spot.

“I didn’t realize that section was that bad. So, I will have somebody temporarily repair that anyway,” Knox said.

The next day, city crews did come out and install construction signs around the concrete portion of the road. However, no actual temporary repairs were made. So, Pinchok reached back out to ask why and when neighbors could expect to see that happen.

A city spokesperson replied saying in part, “it was decided to install edge of road indicators. Until there is a more permanent solution, the one side of the roadway is temporarily closed.”

“This is neglect, this is pure neglect,” Charleston City Councilman Pat Jones said.

Jones says he tried to get the ball rolling by asking for $2 million at a council meeting about two months ago.

“It was voted down in full council,” Jones said.

Pinchok reached out to the mayor’s office to get clarity on why Jones was denied. She also asked if some of the city’s $38.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds go toward the project.

A spokesperson replied saying, “Councilman Jones tried to make an amendment to the ARP allocations which failed when it was voted upon. As part of city allocations, council voted on approximately $7.5 million for infrastructure and broadband upgrades. The exact projects were not named when creating that allocation.”

So, Pinchok wrote back and asked if the city is looking to use some of that $7.5 million for a permanent fix on Blaine Boulevard.

We received a reply that says “council would choose how to allocate that money.”

However, a spokesperson says no council action has been taken yet.

We also know Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin wrote a letter to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asking for his help fixing the road.

In her letter she says “in time, the entire stretch of roadway will be impassable, requiring the City to close the street. Any closure would make it exceptionally difficult for first responders to adequately address emergencies in the area.” The mayor goes on to say “lifelong residents would be forced from their homes.”

So, Pinchok asked the city engineer about those concerns. She asked Knox if he could assure neighbors that they won’t lose their homes.

“No, I can’t. Unfortunately, I cannot predict what that riverbanks gonna do,” Knox said.

Neighbors say this has been put off too long and they want something done to keep them safe.

“If we’d have to move or something-- I’ve got 35 years of my life here that I worked my life off paying for this home,” Hendricks said.

“I’m really scared. I’m scared that it’s gonna be one of my grandkids coming down here to see me and if something happens to this road and they go over… that’s what it’s all about -- safety,” Gurnee said.

As for what steps the city is taking to get financial help, they are in the process of gathering everything they need to apply for a community block grant from the West Virginia Office of Community Development.

A spokesperson says it’s their understanding the maximum award for that grant is $10 million.

So, if the city were awarded that much-- it would cover a majority of the cost.

Mayor Goodwin also released a timeline of the city’s involvement with the road. Following is a look at that timeline:

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