IRONTON — The Ohio Department of Transportation has set aside more than $15 million for a rock fall remediation program near the two bridges connecting Ashland and Coal Grove.

Four-lane U.S. 52 was reduced to two lanes earlier this week as part of the project, which will run through July 2020, according to Kathleen Fuller, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

Kanawha Stone Co., of Poca, West Virginia, was awarded a $14,546,778.86 contract earlier this year to do the rock fall remediation, to upgrade guardrails east of the bridges along U.S. 52 and pave the road, according to Transportation officials.

The project calls for traffic to be shifted to one of the lanes and the shoulder of the road at some point, Fuller said.

A similar, emergency project several years ago has held up very well, Fuller said. That project, however, was just an intermediate measure until the existing project could be funded, she said.

"There will be deeper rock cuts this time," she said.

The speed limit on the road is being reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph at the section of the highway from the bridges east to Grandview Inn, Fuller said.

While officials hope to have two lanes of traffic open much of the time during the work, the project could lead to traffic being restricted to one lane of westbound traffic at times, according to highway officials.

There will be times when both lanes of traffic will be blocked when large rocks are pushed down or blasting is required, Fuller said. Those delays could hold up traffic 10 to 15 minutes or longer, she said.

Design and right of way work for the project cost another $500,000, pushing the project cost to more than $15 million, Fuller said.

The blasting work could begin after the first of the year, according to officials.

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