City looking at Richwood, Willey intersection

MORGANTOWN — Pulling onto Willey Street from Richwood Avenue is a delicate dance.

It requires drivers to crane around to the right to check for cars coming down Willey. The sight line is short, so the decision to go must be decisive — but not too aggressive — as just beyond the intersection is a busy pedestrian crossing between the former Arnold Hall and the Little General convenience store.

Adding to the complexity are cars traveling up Willey Street from the downtown area, some of which will peel off to head up Richwood in the other direction — with or without the use of a turn signal.

Because of the odd design, cars exiting Richwood Avenue cannot turn right onto Willey Street.

In other words, it’s a bad intersection.

That’s why the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is taking public input on a potential redesign through its website,

The MPO actually took up analysis of the crossroads at the request of the city’s planning department and in response to the February 2018 report by Aecom on Future Study Area No. 2. The report noted, “The existing intersection is unsafe for pedestrians and does not allow full traffic movement in both directions.”

“Areas for Future Study” are places where the zoning does not align with land uses or the existing pattern of development. It may also be an area where the existing zoning is not compatible with, or does not fully support the desired future of the area.

Chris Fletcher, the city’s planner and director of development services, said there are a number of possible planning and zoning code provisions for that area — described as immediately northeast of the Morgantown central business district and just north of Decker’s Creek — “but those revisions really need to be informed by either realignment or significant improvement for pedestrian crossings.”

The designs presented by the MPO would limit access to the Richwood Avenue loop. Instead, East Prospect Street would extend across what is now a parking lot next to the Little General. It would form a 90-degree intersection with Willey at a signaled pedestrian crossing.

MPO Director Bill Austin said that while this specific project has not been designated a Tier-1 priority by the MPO, the intersection has been identified as an area of concern by the pedestrian safety initiative taken up by the city, county, MPO and WVU.

Thus far, the city is leading the effort to study the intersection. Because Willey Street is a state route, the West Virginia Division of Highways will need to be involved before any actual work begins — meaning changes may be down the road a bit.

Austin said the state is awaiting the MPO’s study. If the state opts to get involved, the project should be eligible for federal funding.

“The primary discussions about addressing these issues should be between the state and the City of Morgantown,” Austin said. “The MPO is ready to assist the city and state with these discussions, if needed.”

Regardless of the eventual timeline, Councilor Ron Dulaney said now is the time to get involved.

“It’s probably some years out before this would get constructed, but nonetheless, it’s the beginning of the process and they’re seeking public input,” he said. “Please do it sooner than later. See what’s going on and let your voice be heard.”

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