Environmental study paves way for road work

An environmental study is underway ahead of a project that will dramatically alter the flow of traffic on Beechurst Avenue, particularly at its intersection with Campus Drive.

Speaking with members of The Dominion Post Editorial Board, Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Bill Austin said the improvements will run from Campus Drive to Fayette Street.

Included in the work, which is estimated at $11.5 million and slated for the 2022 construction season, will be right turn lanes from Beechurst onto Campus and from Campus onto Beechurst.

“The other thing they’re going to do is change the striping, so you’ll have two northbound lanes and one southbound lane in that section, which is the opposite of what you have now,” Austin said.

The Beechurst Avenue project is just one of several Austin discussed, including a joint venture between the city of Morgantown and the West Virginia Division of Highways to overhaul the awkward intersection at Willey Street and Richwood Avenue.

Austin said the city concurred with the MPO’s assessment that the current intersection should be closed and East Prospect Street extended across the parking lot next to the Little General store and into a T-intersection with Willey.

In the short term, Austin explained, there will likely be some pedestrian improvements in that area, potentially including a standalone pedestrian signal.

Morgantown’s Director of Development Services, Chris Fletcher, said that the city is studying land uses in that area along with WVU, as the changes will likely impact Arnold Hall.

He said the city and WVU plan to meet this week “to talk about what we need to do to plan for, design and budget improvements to open up East Prospect,” before cautioning, “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Some other local DOH projects include:

The construction of a new bridge across the Monongahela River accessing I-79.

There is no planned construction timeline as of yet, but according to information provided by Austin, about $1.3 million will be spent on an environmental study beginning in 2021.

That project has a cost estimate of $125 million using federal transportation money, though “We know that price is going to go up,” Austin said.

Improvements to West Run Road between Stewartstown Road and Point Marion Road is under an environmental study, with right-of-way acquisition planned for 2020 and construction to follow.

The work will include widening and improvements to the intersection with Point Marion Road as well as enhanced access to the Bartlett House.

Originally budgeted at $6.4 million, Austin said that price tag is likely closer to $16 million.

Improvements to Van Voorhis Road were initially programmed to run from West Run Road to Bakers Ridge Road. Austin said that has since been corrected to focus on the stretch between Patteson Drive and West Run.

The scope of the work will include widening and the installation of much needed sidewalks.

That work is estimated to cost $16 million. An environmental assessment is underway. Construction is planned for 2021.

Austin said the widening of Mileground Road from the roundabout to Airport Boulevard will begin next spring or summer.

He explained that an unexpected issue getting eminent domain claims taken up by local judges has slowed right-of-way acquisition.

The project is currently budgeted at $14 million.

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