Significant road projects ahead for Mon County

MORGANTOWN — Behind the scenes, there are still significant road projects that Bill Austin hopes will eventually come to fruition in Monongalia County.

The executive director for the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) said many of the more significant road projects can get lost in the shuffle of the daily news cycle — including the announcement earlier this year of an “unprecedented” 143 area road projects.

One of the projects that drew significant interest from the MPO and Division of Highways involves a makeover of the intersection where Monongalia 857 meets Earl L. Core Road (W.Va. 7).

“The project is moving forward,” Austin said on WAJR’s Morgantown AM Wednesday. “We certainly don’t want it stopped. Mr. (Don) Williams expressed that it is a much-needed project. It is one of those things that you don’t want to put it on hold because it could be (another) 20 years before the money becomes available.”

Williams, the DOH District 4 engineer, will retire after 31 years on the job at the end of September.

Public feedback on the 857/7 intersection is now under consideration.

“The comments on that intersection have been taken to Charleston,” Austin said.

Austin said, in this instance, the DOH is properly funded to make the intersection overhaul a reality.

“There is money authorized for the acquisition of right-of-way in that area,” he said. “DOH is planning to move forward with it. It’s just making sure we are responsive to the public with it.”

Meanwhile, the I-79 access project — much talked about during the Roads to Prosperity debate last year — may not even be part of the program’s final roll-out expected over the next eight years.

“In that instance, the state is committed to use federal funds to construct that project,” Austin said. “If you look at our transportation improvement program and over approximately five years putting aside $100 million for that project in federal funds for our area for construction around 2025.

“That project’s not necessarily part of Roads to Prosperity, but the state has made a commitment to construct it.”

The Preliminary Investigation and Engineering (PIE) study on the connector project is not expected to be finished in time, but would be included in Roads to Prosperity on the off-chance the study is completed in time.

“If they were able to accomplish the environmental studies that they need to do for that project in time to include it for Roads to Prosperity, they would include it,” Austin said. “But those are fairly fast track projects and so given the level of the environmental detail and the public involvement that we need to have on that project, it becomes less likely to be able to be accomplished in that timeframe.”

A PIE study reviews all of the environmental issues that go into a road project, also serving a second purpose as a feasibility study that’s often used to secure the confidence of a bond-issuing agency.

Additional PIE studies are ongoing for three other projects: Spot improvements on Beechurst Avenue from 8th Street to Pleasant Street, widening of Van Voorhis Road and a West Run widening project.

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