WSAZ INVESTIGATES | COVID-19 concerns holding up Ohio road project

Work for a road project in southern Ohio is at a standstill if homeowners don't participate in pre-blast surveys.
Work for a road project in southern Ohio is at a standstill if homeowners don't participate in pre-blast surveys.(WSAZ)
Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT
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A road project in Ohio is in jeopardy as deadlines loom and the contractor awaits participation from residents.

"We're here in Lawrence County along state Route 7," said Matt McGuire, Public Information Officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation. "This is a rockfall mediation project very similar to the current project that's in progress on (U.S.) 52 west of here."

Before work can begin, the contractor needs to inspect the structural integrity of homes and businesses within 1,500 feet of the blast zone.

Of the 400 homes needing an inspection, less than 200 have been completed since March.

"If the residents would see a fresh face that maybe would at least entertain the message we're trying to get out," one worker said.

Many homeowners cited concerns about COVID-19 and say they're hesitant to let people in their homes.

A few residents like Timothy Newman have already been inspected and say it was a fairly simple process and took about half an hour.

"He was really nice. He went all the way around the house. Of course, the gates are locked around there," Newman said. "That's all he did was look at it and check it, then he went in and looked to see if I had any cracks in the ceiling and stuff like that."

He hopes his neighbors will understand the importance of the surveys, in order to keep the project moving along on schedule.

"If they're that hesitant just, put a mask on and go do their job," Newman said. "Do what they gotta do."

Carl Hamlin remembers the major rock slide in 2018 that closed down several lanes for an extended period of time.

He says he'll never forget the sound and seeing his neighbors all rush outside.

"It sounded like an earthquake, I thought a tornado ripped through," Hamlin said.

He appreciates the work being done, to prevent another incident from happening.

"I'm gonna sit out here and watch the rocks fly," Hamlin said.

He has also completed the inspection and said all it required was a few minutes. The inspector jotted down some notes and snapped a few photos. He says it gives him peace of mind, in case something were to go wrong with the project.

"I mean, if they blast and shakes and does something to their foundation, then who they gonna holler at?"

ODOT was out in the neighborhoods Thursday, handing out packets of information to the homes that still need to be inspected. They hope to answer questions and provide contact info, should they need additional reassurances.

The clock is on to get the inspections completed.

"If we aren't able to settle this situation with the pre-blast surveys, then the project will probably be facing delays," McGuire said. "More time means more money."

Ultimately, the inspections protect both the homeowner and contractor when it comes time for the dynamite to blow.

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