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Mon County preps letter for circuit court on delayed projects

MORGANTOWN — “Tell your judges to do their job.”

That, Monongalia County Commission President Sean Sikora said, was the response the commission received from top West Virginia Department of Transportation officials more than a year ago when questions were raised about continual delays for two key transportation projects.

On Thursday, the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board approved a letter to Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Philip Gaujot turning those remarks into a formal request.

The letter documents more than a dozen eminent domain cases tied to the Mileground widening and University Avenue / Collins Ferry intersection improvement project that have been sitting before the court for as long as two and three years.

The letter, written by MPO Executive Director Bill Austin at the county commission’s request, points out that the West Virginia DOH has consistently pointed to an inability to schedule hearings as the roadblock stopping progress on the projects.

County Commissioner Tom Bloom, who chairs the MPO Policy Board, said the commission and the board are not asking the courts to  rule any particular way, just to make a ruling so the DOH can react accordingly.

Sikora agreed, adding “One way or another, make a decision.”

“We just want to call attention to the court that we have theses cases that are languishing in front of them. We want the public to know too, that these projects are being delayed through our court system,” Sikora said, later adding “I’m trying to be as blunt as possible about what we’re trying to do here. We just want a decision.” 

In other news from Thursday’s policy board meeting, Austin said a recently completed crash study of Don Knotts Boulevard resulted in some troubling data. 

“What we found is that this is a relatively high incident corridor with more incidents occurring over a five-year period, at about four times the rate of the state average for similar corridors,” Austin said.

The study looked at the 2.1 mile corridor between Pleasant Street and Smithtown Road over the five-year stretch between 2015-’19.

The data highlights four intersections, starting with the Pleasant Street intersection, which saw an annual average of 15 crashes. Intersections at Smithtown Road (12), Foundry Street (11) and Green Bag Road (11) are also high-incident locations.

There were a total of 364 crashes on that two-mile stretch, 79 of which resulted in injury, over that five-year span.

Austin said the study will be forwarded on to the DOH in the hopes that it will look at potential safety improvements for the corridor.

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