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City hopes to address Dorsey, Trumble pushes back on commission ‘bias’

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown Staff Engineer Drew Gatlin said the city is prepared to take on an incredibly ambitious project to address the corridor between South High Street and Green Bag Road. 

And it’s looking to Washington for a kick start. 

Morgantown City Council on Tuesday authorized the submission of an application seeking $8 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant funding. 

If the city is awarded the funding — it should know in May — it would be used to plan and design multimodal improvements and roadway modernization along Dorsey Avenue and South High Street. 

“This project is also committing to a separated facility for bicyclists and pedestrians, additional facilities for other types of multimodal traffic, bus facilities, as well as upgrading the travel lanes on Dorsey Avenue to be more appropriate for the types of traffic and the level of traffic that exists on there, which is about 5,000 vehicles per day,” Gatlin said. 

Once designs are complete, Gatlin said the actual costs of the improvements would likely start in the range of $50 million and take seven to 10 years to complete. 

But, he added, being awarded this initial RAISE grant would be a promising first step. 

He noted the corridor in question serves multiple low-income communities. Further, infrastructure improvements along Dorsey — particularly pedestrian improvements — have been on the community’s wish list for years.   

“If we did this through the RAISE Program, it would be a very compelling story for the federal government to award us for construction dollars, and there is basically no limit to the amount of construction dollars that you could ask for,” Gatlin said. 

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, Councilor Danielle Trumble responded to public comments insinuating the Morgantown Planning Commission has yet to sign off on a charter school at 13 S. High Street because of an unstated bias held by the board or some its members. 

As previously reported, AST Morgantown Properties is seeking approval of a Type III development of significant impact site plan to locate the K-6 Wisdom Academy in the former central office building for Monongalia County Schools. 

The commission tabled the matter during both its January and February meetings, primarily citing concerns about traffic flow and pedestrian safety. 

During Tuesday’s public comment portion, supporters of the school said the applicant has done what the commission has asked of him. One asked council to investigate the matter further.

“Is there more to it than a safety concern? That’s the first question I’d like you guys to please look into a little deeper because there seems to be some biases that we may not be aware of,” Mohamed Hefeida said. 

Similar remarks were offered to The Dominion Post following February’s planning commission meeting. 

Trumble represents city council on the commission. 

She said the commission was prepared to deny the application outright in February but chose instead to try to continue to work with the school group despite “nothing but difficulty and pushback with everything that we have asked.”

“I don’t appreciate someone showing up and just accusing us of whatever bias they want to accuse us of. We are focused on the task at hand, which is evaluating the impact on the surrounding neighborhood,” Trumble said, later adding, “I don’t know if they’re accusing some sort of racism or some sort of bias against a charter school, or whatever that insinuation is, but it is false, and I don’t appreciate someone coming to a city council meeting trying to bypass [the process].”