Rock slide repairs can stall traffic

NEWPORT – Devin Binegar delivers pizza and recently needs an extra few minutes.

“I have to account for at least five extra minutes,” Binegar said.

That’s because for the past two weeks, traffic has been slowed or stopped while crews work to remove a large boulder that fell during an Aug. 22 rock slide along the southbound lane of Ohio 7 just north of Newport.

Now, crews with the Ohio Department of Transportation have been taking care of that fallen rock and cleaning up the top of the hillside from which the two boulders fell to prevent additional slides.

“I usually meet everyone (his customers) at Frontier High School,” said Binegar, 24, who delivers for his family’s pizza business, Fox’s Pizza in B&J Carryout on the south side of the slide in Newport. “I used to beat them there. Now, they beat me there.”

Plus, Binegar drives a stick-shift, so there’s extra shifting involved.

ODOT District 10 communications manager David Rose said the road would be closed into next week for 10 to 15 minute intervals while the cleanup and repair work is being completed.

Rose said the project is known as rockfall hazard mitigation. Before the rock slide, four large boulders sat atop the hill above the road. The mudslide took down two of those boulders. The crews will drill small charges into the boulders and set them off. The charges won’t produce a large explosion. It will be small enough to break apart the rock. While on the top of the hill, the crews also are removing trees that might fall and cause further issues.

“We are still maintaining traffic with the temporary traffic signal,” Rose said. “We may do some flagging with the intermittent closure. Drivers should just slow down and be aware.”

David Roberts, one of the workers at the scene of the slide, said one of the workers who was scaling the face of the rocky cliff carried up a 90-pound jackhammer with him.

A father-and-son team who travels around the country to work on such projects were Tomas and Christian Velasco, of Chicago.

Christian, 19, said he’s been doing the work for only about three months, while his father, 41, has had 22 years of experience.

Just south of the work site along Ohio 7, Larry and Barbara Morrison operate Riverview Auto Parts and Auto Sales. They own property that ends about 1,500 feet from the rock slide.

“I hadn’t noticed (any traffic tie-ups) until today (Thursday),” said Larry, 74. “I heard there was a 15-minute tie-up. I’d say they were a little slower getting through.”

He also added he expected the state might have more trouble with the rocks in that area.

The project is expected to be complete in about two weeks, said Rose.