Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Eight big road projects in Monongalia County, worth $230 million, up for statewide vote Oct. 7


For The Exponent Telegram

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — If the Roads to Prosperity Highway Program referendum passes muster with West Virginia voters on Oct. 7, the $1.6 billion it would create in bonds could fast-track some long-range transportation projects planned in Monongalia County.

The bonds would be sold to pay for the road work and paid back with the car sales and gas taxes and increased motor vehicle registration fees lawmakers approved in the last legislative session.

“Whether the bond is passed or not, those fees are already in place,” said Don Williams, West Virginia Division of Highways District 4 manager, when he explained to the Monongalia County Commission on Sept. 13 why passing the bond would not create new taxes.

In Monongalia County, eight projects would be funded with the general obligation bonds – what residents will vote on in October.

Those projects and their estimated price tags are:

  • Work on .59 mile of the Mileground from Donna Avenue to County Route 857, Easton area — $15 million;
  • Widening the Mileground from the Roundabout to the Morgantown Municipal Airport — $27 million;
  • Improving and widening the Green Bag Road from the Kingwood Pike to White Park — $16 million;
  • Improving and widening West Run Road – $13 million;
  • Widening, improving drainage and adding a sidewalk to part of Van Voorhis Road — $11 million;
  • Improving and widening Beechurst Avenue from Sixth to Eighth streets, near the Seneca Center shopping plaza — $8 million;
  • Building directional ramps at the Interstate 79 Star City interchange and improving Chaplin Hill Road — $40 million; and
  • Constructing a new connector from I-79 to Morgantown — $100 million.

The eight projects total $230 million.

A list of road projects released earlier this month also includes undertakings — some of which are already being let, Williams said, that will be paid for with taxes and fees plus federal funding, including GARVEE — Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles — money.

Williams said the projects would advance as they become ready. The easiest projects to complete — those that don’t need rights of way purchased or utility work — would happen first.

If the bond does not pass, the projects not yet funded would go back on a waiting list for funding.

And the cost of construction will be higher in the future, Williams said.

“There has been a 65 percent cost increase in the last 13 years,” he said, meaning a project that cost $10,000 to build in 2004 might cost $16,500 today.

But if the bond passes, the DOH’s regular budget will be freed up for needs local officials have barely begun to consider.

“It trickles down,” Williams said. Bidding out the jobs “will free up our labor forces to do ditching, pothole-patching and brush-cutting.”

Williams urged those gathered in the commission meeting room to “look at the destination, as well as local roads,” while citing paving on W.Va. 7 because it’s the connector to where the jobs are.

“I think it’s an extremely important initiative to get the state into a position to attract more business and to grow,” said Bill Austin, executive director of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization. “Having an adequate transportation system that addresses vehicle traffic and people’s ability to get in and out of towns, as well as around town, is key to economic vitality.”

Eldon Callen, vice president of Governmental Affairs, Community/Economic Development at the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, said the road bond program is critical to Monongalia County’s current and projected growth.

“This infrastructure program is for everybody who travels Monongalia County roads, not just residents who live on them,” Callen said. “People use these roads to get to work or recreation or anything else. The Chamber of Commerce is fully in support of the referendum.”

Another benefit, Callen said, is keeping motorists from cutting through residential neighborhoods to avoid jams.

“Making major roads work well is how you eliminate that,” Austin said. “Cars are going to go the shortest route. When you have a lot of congestion, they will find ways to keep going.”

Better infrastructure will come at a cost for some business owners along the targeted routes who expect to lose some of their property to construction.

Steve Solomon, owner of American Homes, said he hasn’t seen a plan and doesn’t know how much of his property the state will take to widen the Mileground, but he expects to lose 30 or 35 feet. He anticipates rearranging his lot of model houses. “It’s going to be economically devastating to a lot of people up here,” he said.

Solomon said he would like more information from road designers.

Down the road, John Howard Motors has reviewed a plan, General Manager Jeff Meadows said.

“It appears that we will lose about 30 feet of total road frontage; 24 feet in front of John Howard Nissan and six feet in front of John Howard Subaru,” he said.

“While the construction process will be inconvenient for our business during the process, it will be good for the greater Morgantown area upon its completion,” Meadows said. “Our view is that anything that benefits the Morgantown area as a whole eventually benefits us as well. We live in an area that has been blessed with steady growth and with that comes the need for improved infrastructure.”

See more from The Exponent Telegram

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address