Clearing up the roads and the questions that go with them
What is going on with the road paving plan? Where does the $3 fee I pay go? Why does it feel like no progress is being made on the road conditions? These are common questions being faced when it comes to road conditions. So let's get some answers and lay out the structure of how City road plans work.
Who works on the roads?
The Engineering & Public Works (E&PW) is responsible for the design, supervision, and inspection of all street, highway, sidewalk, and bike path construction, management of city public right-of-ways; and the preparation and carrying out of traffic and crash analysis studies. The E&PW has to balance all of the things with the limited staff available but does a great job working efficiently and at a consistent pace.
The difference in City vs. State roads
While it may seem as simple as fixing all the roads, there is a roadblock when it comes to fixing some of the higher-traffic area roads.
Any of the county, state, or U.S. routes are state-maintained roads that the city does not have jurisdiction over. Roads such as Walnut, Spruce, and Willy Street or Don Knotts Blvd and Beechurst Avenue are all state-maintained roads.
The City is continuously trying to partner with the State to help and work on these areas. A common example is the City will sweep the streets, then the State will haul it away, or if the City paves the road, the State will provide the equipment.
There is a legal barrier when it comes to the City working on state roads. Issues can occur in the process of paperwork and the State making sure they can’t be held liable if one of the City employees gets hurt while working on a state road. So in many cases, the City is unable to work on these important without approval from the State, leading to delays and even, in some cases, a complete stop of progress.
The $3 fee and MFS fund
The MFS fund and the $3 fee can only be used toward the city roads. Those funds cannot be used on state-maintained roads. The $3 fee is the Safe Streets and Safe Community Service Fee (Municipal Service Fee) and is charged to those working within city limits. Since 2016 the $1.20 used for the streets has been able to add roughly a $1.8 million per year budget for road construction. Those funds go towards paving projects, fixing potholes, paving minor roads through public works, and the intersection project. The ?0.57 for public works also has helped fund things such as debris cleanup and snow plowing. Over the last few years, the City has also been able to purchase new equipment to better enhance productivity and effectiveness.
City progress since 2016 with the previous paving plan
The City has been able to pave 50 % of roads since 2016, which is 60+ miles of roadway. 8-11 miles of roads will be paved this year. Before the fund was enacted, 1-5 miles were being paved a year; now, it is roughly 8-12 miles a year. This year the City is hoping to have a new paving plan done. Just like in 2017, the City will have an outside contractor come and asses the roads, including the ones that have already been completed, to see how they are holding up.
The contractor will make decisions on a 0-100 scale and set the priority on which roads should be done first. While usually, this gets followed relatively the same if the electrical and gas companies are doing projects on the road or have upcoming projects on the road, the City has to wait for them to finish before beginning that section. After the contractor asses the roads, they will set the priority for the next 5-10 years just like before.
What are some upcoming City road projects?
There are a lot of projects going on this year leading into next. The paving project, dominion hope gas line replacement and the City is repaving the roads that have experienced wear and tear over the past few years. Pleasant and walnut street street-scape will be worked on where the City will be redoing the sidewalks, trees, and lights.
More projects include realigning the first street with the intersection, widening and adding a sidewalk to North street, paving the rail trail, bridge inspection assessing the conditions and having some re-decking projects in the near future, lighting project In the Greenmont area, and more.
How can the citizens of Morgantown help in improving road conditions?
Citizens can use 311 app to voice concerns and leave feedback. There are also regular city council and traffic commission meetings where citizens have the opportunity to learn more about projects and give input.