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MPO, state working on process to help direct infrastructure dollars

MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization is working with the state on a process for how best to direct some Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dollars within Monongalia County.

In particular, the MPO is looking at two new funding sources — the Carbon Reduction Program and the Surface Transportation Block Grant.

While the figures are preliminary, the STBG looks to bring $3 million into the county annually for the next five years (2022-26) while the CRP will provide $350,000 each year over the same time period.

Both come with stipulations about exactly what kind of work the dollars can be used for.

MPO Executive Director Bill Austin said the initial goal is to get a transparent process in place to vet and recommend projects for these funding sources.

“It’s not something where the MPO can say, ‘You will fund this.’ It’s got to be the state and the MPO agreeing to fund it. But it is allocated to our area, so we’ve got to figure out the details of how that’s going to work,” Austin said. “Ultimately, it may be as simple as the MPO actually programming it, but we’re not there yet.”

While the process is still in the works, there are some recommendations for initial expenditures.

The MPO Policy Board asked Austin to draft a letter requesting use of CRP funds to design the Smithtown Road (W.Va. 73) and Don Knotts Boulevard (U.S. 119) intersection project once the state indicates the construction dollars for that work have been identified.

That project as currently proposed would include a new traffic light and a reconfiguration of the intersection to provide two departure lanes heading south (away from town) on U.S. 119.

The policy board also backed use of roughly $500,000 in STBG funds for a complete signalization study of the downtown Morgantown area. This project has been identified as one of the MPO’s top priorities.

“It is to take a look at the complete operation. It will look at what happens if you close Grumbein’s Island. What happens if you reroute Willey Street? What happens if we reconfigure a portion of the Waterfront? It is a complete signalization study,” Austin explained. “It would give us a complete idea of how traffic operates downtown.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, between $13.8 billion and $14.9 billion will be distributed annually as part of the Surface Transportation Block Grant program through 2026. The Carbon Reduction Program will allocate between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion annually.

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