HINTON, WV (WVNS)– The hole in the road on Route 20 in Hinton has continued to grow and is becoming a massive problem to the community. It has recently been upgraded from a minor traffic nuisance to a major public safety issue.
The hole, which was originally misidentified as a sinkhole, opened up when a more than 100-year-old culvert collapsed underground. It has expanded significantly since it first appeared back in June.
City and State officials have been working with the West Virginia Division of Highways to try to find solutions.
Hinton City Manager Cris Meadows said he understands government work requires jumping through hoops, but he is frustrated watching the hole steadily grow without any answers from the Division of Highways.
“It’s happening right here in our community but nobody is really telling us what’s going on,” Meadows told 59News. “They have not given us a timeline yet. We’re trying to find that out (Monday). We’re talking to all the department officials that we can to try and figure out when this is going to go -we were told it was going to bid. When are the bids due? We don’t know that. We don’t know when the project could start if the bids were due. They just haven’t told us yet.”
According to an update posted on the city of Hinton’s Facebook page, core drilling revealed contamination under the layers of fill and topsoil which were required by law to be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, which slowed the process even further.
Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-10) represents Summers County in the State Senate and said he has been in contact with the DOH about a possible solution, but it will not be an easy fix.
“I mean, the timeline is as soon as possible. The problem is ‘as soon as possible,’ is not going to be quick. This is not something that is going to be resolved in weeks, maybe even months,” said Baldwin.
The potentially long process ahead includes putting the job up for contractors to bid on, working with the contractors to find a solution, the actual construction of the project, and of course, finding out what to do with the Route 20 traffic in the meantime.
“The next step, I think, is (the Division of) Highways needs to get together all of these local leaders and say ‘this is exactly what’s going on, this is the solution that we have arrived at, and what we are recommending moving forward with.’ I expect that to happen in the next day or so,” Baldwin told 59News.
The Division of Highways has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m.Tuesday, November 15 across from Hinton City Hall.
As a result of the hole in Route 20, Summers County schools were forced to go fully remote Monday, to avoid school buses driving on the road.
Beginning Tuesday, all three elementary schools in the county, Hinton Area, Jumping Branch and Talcott will be back in person.
But 6th through 12th graders at Summers County Comprehensive High School, which is located on Route 20 near the hole, will continue remote learning through the end of the week.
Superintendent David Warvel told 59News safety is his top priority.
“Structural engineers with the Department of Highways will have to give us guidance on ‘is this safe to travel over?'” said Warvel. “It’s safe to travel over with the typical vehicle but when you have 50-70 kids on a school bus, that’s my number one cargo and that’s our number one resource. And I want to make sure our kids are safe to get across this area, as well as my employees.”
Warvel said he and his administrative staff are still trying to come up with a long-term solution, and are exploring multiple possibilities for safely returning in person.