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Steve Novotney Says. "Every Day, Mayor"

Every single day, that is. That is how often Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott should send a message to W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice concerning the details involved with the repairs to ramps and bridges along Interstate 70 in Ohio County if the public presentation fails to offer a satisfactory amount of information.

That gathering is scheduled for tomorrow from 4-7 p.m. at West Virginia Independence Hall in downtown Wheeling. No formal presentation will take place, but officials with the Division of Highways are expected to be on hand to answer our questions.

Will that, though, include the specifics about plans for the expansive project? Can we expect to leave the historic building knowing a start date and the projected month – and year – for the completion? Will there be an inspector there to explain how these 14.5 miles of interstate have been monitored? Will this individual be empowered to be honest, or will the employee simply repeat?

"It's safe. It's safe. It's safe."

Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard has been told that the three bridge systems east of Wheeling Tunnel need to be taken to the ground and reconstructed, and that includes all of the ramps, too.

Sound safe?

Howard also reported that DOH folks informed him that each side will be replaced separately and will take "just" 18 total months to finish both the eastbound and westbound spans.

That doesn't even sound like a safe bet.

Remember the tunnel? 111 days? And two-and-a-half years later?

Nine of the 26 bridges and ramps along Interstate 70 were rated "structurally deficient" TWO YEARS AGO by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and while the folks in Charleston have spun that report to lead us to believe all is OK, we SEE the decay.

Now, Gov. Justice maintains Twitter and Facebook accounts; he has a mail box at The Greenbrier and at the Governor's Mansion, and he has an office in the state Capitol. Elliott also has two state delegates and two senators that represent the city, and that fact increases his options to nine avenues for reaching Justice.

Mayor Elliott did send one message about a month ago, but it was not replied to by Governor Justice. That should have been a sign to the mayor that his "Fix It As Promised" mantra needs repeated over and over until acknowledged.

Our local lawmakers have met a few times with Tom Smith, the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, the entity that oversees the Division of Highways, but each have come away with few details except that the project is alive and being reconsidered because of costs included during the initial bidding process. They also were told the plan is changing as far as how much repair will be performed, but only a few facts were offered.

Changing how?

The state's Department of Transportation has released new information on the massive endeavor, much of what will be discussed tomorrow at Independence Hall, and there are schedules, detours, and closure projections included. There are no details pertaining to how the repairs and replacements have been scaled back in order to secure lower bids during Round Two, and, of course, there's no way to know if the state's timelines will translate into reality.

The mayor likely has not chosen this suggested approach because of scheduled public meeting, and that strategy is an understandable one right now, but if his constituents are not satisfied with the offered information, Elliott's response should be insistent and persistent.

Categories: Highlights, Commentary