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Mon Commission weighing a public/private venture to address problem roads

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission is looking to implement a process through which it can assist private property owners in addressing access roads that have either been orphaned or were never recognized by the West Virginia Department of Highways.

The commission pitched the plan during a recent work session with DOH officials.

“It’s kind of like these people are caught in the middle,” Commission President Sean Sikora said. “Their development is off these roads, no fault of theirs, but the entrance to these roads aren’t part of the DOH’s plan, or they are, but orphaned roads really kind of fall to the back of the line and never really get addressed.”

The commission has already begun discussions regarding a few such projects, which would impact access to roughly 300 homes, according to Commissioner Jeff Arnett.

One would address Farm View Road, which runs into Point Marion Road very near the intersection with Stewartstown Road, just across from the Circle K gas station.

“So one, they’ve got line-of-sight issues pulling out of there both ways because it’s a pretty steep hill. The top of that is concrete, so they need to address that entrance because it’s really kind of unsafe pulling out of there,” Sikora said. 

As one of the conditions of county assistance, the Pinecrest development has agreed the connection to Point Marion would become entrance only. 

“They’re bringing money to the table. They’re getting the HOAs to participate. They’re getting individual houses to participate,” Sikora said. “We’re asking these entities to come to the table with skin in the game. So there is a cost to them, and they’re being part of that solution.” 

Other projects being looked at would address Bridge Road, off Grafton Road, and Alpine Street, off Riddle Avenue.

The commissioners cautioned the idea is still in its infancy. They also cautioned that the body is looking for specific projects with unique challenges and isn’t necessarily looking to partner with every development on a rough road in Monongalia County.

Sikora said the commission intends to implement a  process through which these proposals can be weighed equitably. 

He also believes the state can play an advisory role in the program. And upon first explanation, DOH officials appear to agree.

DOH District 4 Engineer Michael Cronin said that while the DOH couldn’t get too hands-on when dealing with improvements to private property, it could assist in looking over plans and offering suggestions and recommendations.

“I’ve noticed in my short time here, over the last couple years, that development is causing problems. We all know that,” Cronin said. “I think we need to work together. We do have people in place who could sit down and review plans and provide input, whether there should be drainage here, or grates or drop inlets. We have the experts who could help you with that.” 

This public/private program would be in addition to an ongoing partnership through which the commission puts up money in order to get projects on the DOH’s radar. 

That collaboration first appeared in 2018 when the county put up $150,000 to leverage $800,000 from the state for work on the upper section of River Road.

Commissioners are weighing a couple options regarding projects to be completed in 2022.

For $200,000 in county money, the DOH would resurface 3.2 miles of 4-H Camp Road. For another $200,000, sections of Boy Scout Road (.82 miles), Dalton Road (.84) and Deckers Creek Boulevard (.38 miles) would be addressed.

“It’s a joint effort as a kind of goodwill offering with the DOH to get some other roads brought up to the front that might otherwise wait several years,” Arnett said. “They basically say, ‘You throw in some of the money and we’ll put it on there.’ ”

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