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DOH District 4 opens new communication lane with Morgantown, Mon


Flooded roadways.

Uprooted trees, resting precariously on utility lines.

Rock slides.

Driving in Monongalia County these days, Tom Bloom said Thursday, means keeping both hands on the wheel.

All the better, the county commissioner said, to avoid one roadway calamity after the other.

“The important thing is that we’re talking,” he said.

That was after Aaron Stevens had steered the West Virginia Division of Highways onto a new information ramp with Mon and Morgantown earlier that morning.

Stevens is a maintenance engineer with District 4 of the DOH, which oversees state roadway projects – lane-widening, culvert-clearing and the like – across north-central West Virginia, including Mon.

Or, Mon after-the-fact, as it were.

Local lawmakers in recent years haven’t been shy about chiding the DOH, for what they say is a misjudgment in roadwork priority.

Over that span, Mon’s elected officials and tax-paying residents have complained.

They’re weary, they say, of looking in the rearview mirror at completed projects in other counties, while Mon – the home of WVU and other economic and medical drivers in the region – continues to languish, in four-wheeled limbo.

Thursday morning, Stevens, with his colleagues in tow, conducted an hour-long Zoom session in hopes of paving over that perception.

Bloom and his fellow commissioner Sean Sikora sat in, as did Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin.

So did Patty Lewis, the mayor of Granville, and Bill Austin, the executive director of the Morgantown Monongalia Planning Organization.

“We’re going to start doing these every quarter,” Stevens said.

“Tell us what you need, and we’ll get back to you.”

The maintenance engineer spent part of the session telling attendees just what District has done in Mon and the region over the past year.

That work including the patching of nearly 550 miles of beat-up road surface, Stevens said, while clearing and repairing 23 miles’ worth of ditches.

District 4 also mowed to the tune of 224 miles.

“That’s the kind of work you don’t always notice,” Bloom said.

Interstate 79’s heavily traveled Corporal Thomas Bennett Bridge, which carries motorists over the Monongahela River, will get a thorough inspection, plus maintenance, in the spring.

Like Bloom, Selin said she appreciated the new avenues of dialogue.

“Talking is huge,” the mayor said. “The DOH has been very responsive. We all drive on the same roads.”

Bloom said he’s been impressed by the work ethic and efficiency of District 4, which has been understaffed for years.

To date, the district office has 29 employees, which is still 10 short of its active quota.

“And it wasn’t that long ago they were down to 20,” the commissioner said.

Thursday’s session was all green lights for him, he said.

“By having this meeting,” Bloom said, “we’re all communicating with one voice.”

Even if a Mon County road got the last word, he said, ruefully.

Before logging onto the meeting, the commissioner got a phone call – to learn of a slippage on lower River Road.

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