Editorials, Opinion

Our transportation future starts now

The Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization is seeking input for its Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which will detail how the MPO’s urbanized area transportation system will evolve from 2022-50.

Public comment on the MTP is important. We’re talking about a document that will lay the foundation for our transportation network for the next 30 years.

There will be two sessions of a virtual meeting Aug. 26 at noon-1 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m. To attend, go to tinyurl.com/3f9r3hr8. The meeting ID is 424 982 0429 and the password is 8675309. There is also an online survey and interactive map if you can’t attend the meeting.

Public input periods are the community’s opportunity to draw attention to problems that need to be fixed as well as what people would like to see happen.

With the  pandemic drastically altering lives and climate change necessitating lower emissions, our transportation future is changing. Rail-trail use was up significantly during the pandemic, so the need for sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes increased. With many people working from home, traffic patterns changed. More and more people are looking for more environmentally friendly means of travel, including public transportation and carpooling.

Are these short-term fads powered by a global health crisis? Or a long-term trend? Time will tell for certain, but public feedback will let the MPO know if these are the kinds of changes it needs to start building into the plan now.

When MPO Executive Director Bill Austin sat down with The Dominion Post’s Editorial Board, he emphasized that now is the time to set a comprehensive plan. The funding stars have aligned, and the MTP’s latest revision is happening at the same time the federal government is pumping millions of dollars into infrastructure — including for things like bridges and roads that fall under the purview of the MTP. And when he says comprehensive, he means getting every municipality’s government on the same page.

The MTP covers Morgantown, Star City, Westover, Granville as well as out into Monongalia County. Each local government is working with a consultant. Westover and Granville are working with one consultant, while Morgantown and the Mon County Commission are engaged with the consultant working directly with the MPO on creating a comprehensive plan. Star City is off on its own.

What Austin would like to see — and for which he needs the public’s help — is all five governments working together on the same plan. Right now, Westover and Granville have agreed to cooperate with the MPO, Morgantown and Mon County Commission through their separate consultants.

The problem is each party is trying to make sure it gets its own slice of the pie, according to Austin. What each fails to realize is that if they all worked together and took a comprehensive plan down to Charleston, then the collective needs of all five communities — Morgantown, Westover, Granville, Star City and the rest of Mon County — would qualify them for a much larger pie. And, therefore, much larger slices.

There might be legal boundaries separating our municipalities, but we all travel freely among them. Pass from Morgantown’s Suncrest neighborhood into Star City and blink, you’d never know you were in a new town. Same goes for crossing from Westover into Granville.

 It only makes sense for the all the local governments to come together to create one plan. We may have four municipalities, but we are one large community.