WSAZ Investigates | Gridlocked
CROSS LANES, W.Va. (WSAZ) - More than 25,000 drivers travel Goff Mountain and Big Tyler roads in Cross Lanes every day, and often they wait -- stuck in traffic.
Back in 2019, many believed a proposed widening project would be an answer to daily gridlock.
Cross Lanes resident Richard Gerkin, speaking in July 2019 with WSAZ NewsChannel 3, said he looked forward to less traffic.
“I thought it was good news,” he said at the time. “It’s been a long time coming for Cross Lanes.”
But years of delay have now turned to frustration, WSAZ found upon a recent return to Gerkin’s house.
“That was three years ago. What’s your thoughts now?” asked WSAZ Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson.
“Well, where’s it been?” Gerkin replied. “Why, after all of this time, at least hasn’t a little bit of something been done to actually start construction and start doing the upgrade that’s supposedly in the works?”
In 2019, the West Virginia Division of Highways distributed maps to residents.
In January, the agency hosted a public meeting, telling neighbors construction was expected to get underway in winter 2021, but nearly a year later WSAZ found the same gridlock with no relief in sight.
“There was a lot of conversation going around,” Gerkin recalled. “‘Well, if they get it started in late 2021, then we should have something by the middle of 2022,’ and of course nothing has happened. Virtually nothing has happened.”
And Gerkin is not alone in his frustration.
“Traffic’s horrible,” said Cross Lanes resident James Flint. “We need it to be widened. Traffic all day, everyday. Sit for an hour out here in traffic.”
“I just thought it was just shut down because I haven’t heard from any body,” said John Burdette, a business owner with real estate in the affected area. “No real estate appraisers or anything. It’s been over a year.”
So WSAZ took their concerns to state Division of Highways. The agency ignored the station’s repeated requests for an on-camera interview.
So Johnson sent emails, pressing D.O.H. on why the project was delayed, and how much the delay will cost taxpayers.
The agency did not answer those questions.
Johnson also asked about a timeline for construction of the project.
Division spokesperson Jennifer Dooley initially stated in response, “start and completion dates have not yet been determined.”
So Johnson responded again, reminding Dooley of the flyer, which still appeared on the agency’s website Thursday telling drivers relief should have been on the way nearly a year ago.
The agency never acknowledged construction was behind schedule, but Dooley replied in part, “on the ground work is anticipated in 2023 once the work that is already underway has been properly completed.”
Dooley explained the ongoing work continues behind the scenes involving rights-of-way, utility relocation and other coordination, going on to say, “when construction begins, disruption to businesses and residents in the area will be minimized due to the careful planning taking place right now.”
WSAZ took that update to Gerkin.
“Does that ease the frustration?” Johnson asked Gerkin.
“That helps,” he replied. “Yeah, that helps. That’s the first time I’ve seen words to the effect something is actually going to happen. I think that’s very important.”
The division spokesperson said right-of-way work is now planned to wrap up by the end of the year. The project will then be put out for bid with construction to follow next year.
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