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Morgantown moving away from ‘worst first’ approach with paving plan

MORGANTOWN — If you think living on the bumpiest, most-treacherous, pothole-ridden city-maintained street in Morgantown means your street has to be at the top of the city’s 2023 paving list, think again.

During a report to Morgantown City Council, Staff Engineer Drew Gatlin said there are currently about 19 miles of street being considered for paving this summer, of which probably 10-11 miles will be addressed.

He also explained why some of the city’s worst streets aren’t getting large paving projects.

“You may be confused that we are not paving a particular street that looks in really bad shape. There’s a reason why we don’t do the “worst first” methodology anymore, in general,” he said, explaining that preventing multiple streets from deteriorating to a failed state is a more effective and efficient use of resources than a single project to reconstruct one street that is totally failed.

“Why do we do this? To save money is the number one thing … Basically, we have a limited amount of resources and we need to make the best use out of them,” he said, later adding, “We have a network we’re maintaining. If we can’t effectively spend money, then the entire network deteriorates faster.”

Gatlin conceded the concept of pavement preservation can be counterintuitive in that it often appears as if work is being done out of order.

Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble said the efficiency argument will likely be a hard sell for city residents living on streets considered a lost cause.

“I completely understand what you’re saying, Drew, but when people call me and I have to tell them, ‘I’m sorry, your street is too far gone for us to make it a priority,’ it’s not going to fly very well,” she said, half joking, “so, I’m going to give them your number.”

Members of council were provided a rundown of the streets up for consideration this summer. The Dominion Post requested that list but did not receive a response in time for this report.

City Engineer and Public Works Director Damien Davis said the list was also provided to utility companies in order to determine if any potential paving jobs conflict with upcoming utility work.

Davis noted the five-year plan based on the 2017 roadway assessment completed by Dynatest will also influence this summer’s paving list. That five-year paving plan, available at, is still in play because the 2020 paving season was scrapped due to COVID-19.    

According to numbers provided by the city, $1.77 of the $3 service fee collected from individuals who work inside city limits is used to maintain the roughly 100 miles of streets in the city and the public works department that does much of that work.

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