WHEELING, W.Va. — Nothing like it had ever been done in West Virginia before – but with the alternative being nearly a month of lane restrictions on a busy stretch of Interstate 70, state Division of Highways officials figured it was worth a try.
Intermittent delays and the unusual sight of a helicopter placing light poles along the Interstate on Two-Mile Hill greeted drivers near The Highlands Wednesday afternoon. As a result, a three- to four-week project got done in a shade over five hours, according to DOH District 6 Manager Gus Suwaid.
“It’s the first project of its kind in the whole state of West Virginia, so District 6 took the lead in experimenting with this approach,” Suwaid said. “That’s something we’re very excited about and proud of.”
A total of 41 light poles were placed along the highway as part of a $5.4 million lighting improvement project. Complete General Construction of Columbus is the DOH’s lead contractor for the work. According to Suwaid, five poles were placed every 15 minutes.
Suwaid said the work actually was a three-step process. After the helicopter picked up each light pole and set it on its foundation, a crew on the ground put “leveling nuts” in place, followed by a second crew to tighten the nuts with a hydraulic wrench.
“It went very well,” Suwaid said.
Drivers who had to endure complete stoppages of traffic every 15 minutes might have a different opinion, but Suwaid believes the approach saved more headaches in the long run.
Two-Mile Hill is one of the area’s most heavily traveled and – with a fatal accident just four hours before the lighting work began Wednesday morning as the latest example – dangerous stretches of highway.
And using a helicopter instead of cranes to place the light poles wasn’t just more convenient, Suwaid said – it also was more cost-effective than more traditional methods.
“When you consider the amount of labor and the cost of traffic control, crane rental, it adds up,” Suwaid said.