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Green Bag Road project to help fund community gardening

MORGANTOWN — It looks as if the long-discussed and argued-over Green Bag Road intersection project may be popping up rutabagas before it’s putting down roundabouts. 

Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Bill Austin recently told members of the MPO Policy Board that he’s working with the Federal Highways Administration and the West Virginia Division of Highways to implement a project in support of community gardens. 

Because one of the two roundabouts proposed for the project will take out a community garden at the intersection of Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike, the NEPA, or National Environmental Policy Act, study of the project required a community garden component.  

“What we proposed with the NEPA process with the city (Morgantown) was to actually have a process where applicants from various neighborhoods can apply for those funds to implement a community garden project,” Austin explained, adding “It’s actually funding that’s available urban-area-wide, so if someone from Star City or Granville or Westover wanted to apply, they could apply for it as well.” 

But the community garden that’s on part of the land the DOH needs is still there. 

Asked when or if that land would be obtained by the state, Austin said funds for the project will be obligated in the coming fiscal year, which runs July 1 to June 30, 2024. 

“Of course, if it is a contested acquisition, then they have to go through the condemnation process and all of that,” he said. 

Given the vocal opposition voiced by property owners in the area for years now, that seems all but guaranteed. 

Dirar Ahmad, project manager for the DOH, said construction plans are currently in progress and scheduled to be complete by early winter, at the latest. Further, he said, right-of-way plans are currently under review. 

All that being said, Policy Board member Ron Justice said maybe everyone should hold off on financing gardens, at least for now. 

“If that [Green Bag] project gets canned, if someone uses that money, will they have to give the money back?” he asked. “Because there’s certainly two trains of thought in the community right now. One is that project is going to go and the other is that project is not going to go. Personally, at this point, I don’t know … I know what we’ve done, but I don’t know if it’s going or it’s not, personally.” 

Based on the latest available information, the Green Bag Road project will cost $19 million — including $3 million in right-of-way improvements in fiscal year 2024 and $16 million in intersection construction in fiscal year 2025. 

It will impact 1.65 miles of Green Bag Road between Napa Auto Parts and Aarons Creek Road and will include a widening of Green Bag Road as well as roundabouts at the intersections of Green Bag Road and Mississippi Street, and Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike/Dorsey Avenue. It will also add various pedestrian and stormwater upgrades to the area. 

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