HARPERS FERRY – U.S. 340 beside the Shenandoah River will likely have to temporarily close to traffic during the summer of 2022 to allow construction crews to install safety barriers against falling rocks, a state highway official reported.
“You got people up on that rock face putting netting and drilling and things like that,” explained Lee Thorne, a regional manager with the West Virginia Division of Highways. “It’s too dangerous to have people driving below the rocks” during the construction, he said.
During a public meeting last February, highway officials estimated that the project’s construction might close that heavily traveled section of U.S. 340 for about a month. At that time, highway officials said construction disruptions might be restricted to evenings and weekends. Keeping the highway open to one-way traffic was another consideration.
Two years ago a West Virginia geological engineering firm completed a study that recommended about $14 million worth of safety measures for U.S. 340 that runs under Loudoun Heights. The report recommended bolting and blasting in addition to installing berms and barriers at three cliff sections to keep motorists safe from tumbling rocks and boulders.
The cliffs extending just east of Chestnut Hill Road almost to Harpers Ferry Road currently have no safety restraints for falling rocks.
Speaking to the Jefferson County Commission last week, Thorne said engineering plans to implement those safety measures are nearly finished. State highway officials will conduct a public meeting this spring to explain the scope, duration and impact of the rockfall safety project, he said.
West Virginia highway officials will work with their Virginia counterparts to coordinate any necessary detour routes around the construction, he said.
Last year highway officials outlined a possible detour route for Jefferson County motorists traveling to and from Maryland who would use Route 9. That detour would direct traffic to Harpers Ferry Road to access Route 9.