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Project aims to improve congested strip of University Avenue for motorists, pedestrians

MORGANTOWN — What do you get when you combine University Avenue, Riverview Drive, Law School Drive, 8th Street, Gallatin Avenue, a bus stop and the entrance to the Terrace Heights Apartments?

A mess for motorists and a potential ambulance ride for pedestrians.

But a project slated for this summer promises to improve sight lines for motorists and the ability for pedestrians to be seen in that congested strip of University Avenue.

Morgantown City Council recently approved a $275,553.54 contract with Blue Gold Development that will slightly realign University Avenue as well as its intersection with 8th Street, among other things.

Morgantown Director of Engineering and Public Works Damien Davis said the project will also continue the new 8th Street sidewalk up to University Avenue and put in two crosswalks including Solar Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons across University at Law School Drive and the entrance to Terrace Heights.

New University Avenue sidewalks and two new bus shelters, one on each side of the road, will also be installed.

“We’re going to right some historical issues that have been in this area,” Davis added. “Gallatin Avenue, over the years, has migrated over onto private property, so we’re going to put the road back in the right of way where it belongs.”

The pedestrian improvements are actually the continuation of a partnership between the city, county and WVU formed in wake of a rash of vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents in 2018 and 2019.

The group was behind the crosswalks with pedestrian-activated flashing beacons installed at locations like the intersection of University Avenue and Falling Run Road.

Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin said this area is particularly bad for pedestrians as drivers can become so focused on pulling out into the traffic on University Avenue that they miss what’s directly in front of them.

“That’s the only place in Morgantown I’ve gotten actually hit by a car, crossing the top of 8th Street,” Selin said. “It’s good to have more warnings that there are pedestrians in the area, because I think that’s part of the problem. People don’t always expect to see a pedestrian, so anything to make pedestrians more visible and the distances shorter …”  

WVU Executive Director of Communications April Kaull said the university provided just over $14,000 for the flashing beacons and crossing signage as part of the project.

Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said the commission has yet to receive a funding request.

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