An area road already closed for about a month due to a hump appearing in the pavement will be shut down even longer to correct the problem.
“Throughout the month of July,” is the latest word from a Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman regarding Willis Gap Road (also known as Willis Gap Mountain Road and Route 771). It is used by Virginia travelers, including those residing in the Blue Ridge Parkway area, to reach Surry County and Mount Airy.
That route was closed in early June after the hump appeared in the roadway and created a safety hazard. The elevated pavement has been blamed on a malfunctioning pipe running underneath the road.
It rose about 18 inches on one end and caused a dangerous situation for motorists, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Resident Engineer Lisa Hughes has said.
The pipe failure occurred in an area along Willis Gap Road where a slope-stabilization project was completed in 2014.
Normally, crews simply would dig up the pipe and do a re-laying job, but the situation there was “unusual” and somewhat complicated, according to Hughes, who oversees state road needs in Patrick County.
“The best we can tell, the slope continued to slide, and it all kind of performed as one unit,” she said, which involved the pipe being lifted along with other fixtures in the ground.
Since steel rods were installed to stabilize the slope in 2014 — which were placed underneath the pipe — the repair job meant cutting through the rods to allow crews to work around the pipe to remove it and do the re-laying.
“They’re working on it now,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson said Thursday regarding the project, relaying updates from a DOT maintenance manager.
Noting the complicated nature of the task, DOT personnel explained then that much work has been in store at the site and crews want to make sure it is completed once and for all.
The spokesperson says there is a chance Willis Gap Road could be reopened before the end of July.
While it remains closed, travelers must use a detour that is proving lengthy and otherwise inconvenient.
It requires motorists to take Boundary Road to reach Orchard Gap Road, then proceed along Orchard Gap until it intersects with Old Dominion Road in Carroll County.
Detour signs further direct travelers to follow Old Dominion Road until it intersects with Orchard View Drive, bringing them back into Patrick County. Orchard View Drive then intersects with the other side of Willis Gap Road.
One man who commutes from the Groundhog Mountain area to Mount Airy says the detour has added about 10 to 15 minutes to his travel time. In addition, Orchard Gap Road is much steeper and curvier than Willis Gap Road, he said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.