Open Letter to Department of Transportation















The following Open Letter was printed in the Dominion Post on November 16, 2002 as an Editorial entitled…


“Commuter Concerns: The WVDOT needs to be more responsible in its choice of Projects”




November 9, 2002



Dear Secretary of Transportation Fred Van Kirk:


As the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in Morgantown struggles to be established, the First Things First Committee is writing to express our concern about your Department’s performance in working with our local communities. We have observed WVDOT actions taken during the past three years, including WVDOT statements made this past month, which make us question whether the MPO really will make any difference in the way in which WVDOT decisions are made, and not made, for improving roads and strengthening communities in our County.


Some of our points of concern are as follows:


  • Will the MPO be informed about an amount of funding which can be used in the MPO area for new projects or will the decision on how much will be spent continue to rest entirely with the WVDOT?  If no core funding amount for new projects is assigned, will not the MPO be simply an ’advisory’ group?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to promote the West Run Expressway (WRE) even when there is disagreement in the County? Will the WVDOT continue to delay action on other priority improvements because the WRE has not been accepted by many County citizens?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to say it supports the 2020 Transportation Plan and then take action to construct 3 lanes on Route 7 in Sabraton rather than the 5 lanes specified in the Plan?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to listen to local citizens, legislators, local officials, and even a corporation offering a major contribution  make recommendations about projects such as the Greenbag Road and Rt. 73 intersections with South University Avenue and then proceed to do what was not requested without further timely dialogue or justification?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to say that it has no money for doing projects on major thoroughfares with ten’s of thousands of vehicles a day and then spend $1.5 million in Westover on Monongahela Ave. where there are fewer than 100 vehicles a day using the new road? (This project was not even listed as a priority for funding in the 2020 Transportation Plan. The City of Westover was not even informed that construction was being initiated on the project until dirt was being moved!)


  • Will the WVDOT continue to leap frog ahead other projects which are listed as low priority in the 2020 Transportation Plan such as  the Ice’s Ferry Bridge without communication and justification?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to construct flawed intersections such as those on WV 705 and Mileground corridor which were graded by WVDOT as substandard in February 2000 and then have to upgrade them because they were not done appropriately in the first place within 25 years?


  • Will the WVDOT  fail to correct unfinished traffic bottleneck projects that it has created such as the 4 lanes on Rt. 705 between Stewartstown Road and the Mileground and the 4 lane connection between the 4 lanes on Greenbag Road by Giant Eagle and South University Ave.?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to use the development of a WVU research park as the primary justification for creating traffic arteries away from the community rather than as a justification for first improving traffic flow  within the community?


  • Will the WVDOT continue to drag its feet on the development of a progressive plan for Beechurst and University Ave. and then cite its lack of certainty about Sunnyside development as a reason for not expediting requested plans for improving the central city’s only thoroughfare?


  • Will the State continue to talk about the development of a billion dollar I-68 extension between Morgantown and Moundsville when it has not even finished the Mon-Fayette Expressway and its Intersection with I-68,  let alone addressed long standing needs for local highway improvements within Morgantown and Monongalia County?


  • Will  the WVDOT continue to support its assertion that the 2020 Transportation Plan prepared 1995-1997 is still a viable plan for Monongalia County transportation development during the next 18 years even though there is not adequate foreseeable funding available to complete all 40 projects plan before the year 2020 (or perhaps 2030-40)? In 1997 the Plan called for 76.6% (or more) of all projected available funding for projects being spent on a West Run Expressway (I-268) which means that over 95% of the other 39 local projects would have had to be eliminated or reduced in scale.


  • Will the WVDOT still consider an unrevised 2020 Transportation Plan for Monongalia County sufficient for addressing continuing and emerging needs in the central city and for addressing expanding congestion north, south, east and west within the County? With today’s WVDOT funding limitations, increased costs, many significant changes in the Morgantown area, and the local concerns about the I-268 project, are not major revisions in Plan’s project priorities called for to address needs which affect the entire population?


We understand that raising State and Federal funding for highways is indeed difficult. But from our experience, the problems with a lack of substantive progress in road improvement extend beyond funding problems to the lack of WVDOT on-going communication with local units of government and their constituencies.


The problems also seem grounded in the presumption that roads are mostly just for existing vehicles. The WVDOT practice seems to be to wait to act until vehicles are sufficiently congested in a community, and then build a road outside of the community to try to take care of the problem. We see this having been repeated over and over around the State, and we are concerned that this outside road approach will be used in Monongalia County too.


Will the WVDOT communication with the area improve with the MPO?  Will this new   relationship help lead to an improvement in comprehensive planning? Will your representatives continue to bring the WVDOT list of work projects for the next 5 years   to MPO meetings for a last minute opportunity for local review, local response, and local input?   


Many changes are needed if community needs are to be addressed in a manner consistent with the letter and intent of the MPO legislation. We hope there will indeed be a better new page in the book for the relationship between the WVDOT and the Monongalia County area.  We also hope that the change will lead to better traffic flow and stronger existing communities.


Thank you for your assistance in this communication.


Respectfully yours,


Don Spencer


First Things First Committee

565 Harvard Ave., Morgantown, WV 26505


Copies: Legislative Delegation from Monongalia County

             Monongalia County Commission

             City Councils of Morgantown, Westover, Star City, Granville and Blacksville







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