The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

February 12, 2014

Fayette-Raleigh MPO planning moves forward

Hannabass named new chairman

After the 2010 census found over 50,000 people living in Fayette and Raleigh counties along U.S. 19 and W.Va. 16, it allowed the area to be designated as urban.

And the Fayette-Raleigh Metropolitan Planning Organization was created.

The agency, known as FRMPO, is in its first full year of existence. It has a new chairman and continues to solidify plans to make the metropolitan area’s public transportation in the two counties operate as smoothly as possible.

The Fayette-Raleigh MPO oversees both counties and was created to come up with a long-range transportation plan and develop a transportation improvement program. It is funded in part by fees from participating counties, municipalities and federal and state funds. Though still in the planning phase, this organization will be developing the area’s public transportation master plan.

Federal grant program 5307, the Urbanized Area Formula Program, became the region’s route to receive federal transportation grant funds after the census.

Though a lot has been suggested, the roles Mountain Transit Authority (MTA) and Raleigh County Community Action Association (RCCAA) will play in moving southern West Virginians across the area are not yet known.

In a memo released by the MPO, it was the legal opinion of Anna R. Ziegler of Ziegler & Ziegler L.C. that RCCAA “may be considered a public agency and therefore a qualified recipient of the federal funding to provide transportation services in the Urbanized Area.”

In the same letter Ziegler also advised that “RCCAA should be authorized to provide public transportation services in Fayette County; however, I would recommend seeking recognition from the governor for this limited purpose.”

After the resignation of the previous FRMPO chairman, former Beckley mayor Emmett Pugh, a replacement had to be chosen. William Hannabass, 2013 vice chairman and Oak Hill city manager,  was named chairman and Raleigh County Commission President Dave Tolliver accepted the title of vice chair.

Hannabass said that the MTA will “probably pull service” from the area due to the changes taking place and the RCCAA will be poised to offer similar services.

In a Jan. 23 letter from Susan L. O’Connell, executive director of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the agency disclosed that “On Dec. 31, 2014, MTA would discontinue the service to both Oak Hill and Fayetteville. MTA has indicated that it does not want to be both a 5311 (for nonurbanized areas) and 5307 recipient because of the significant additional administrative burden this would entail.

“ ... This would give Fayette County and the cities of Oak Hill and Fayetteville almost another 12 months to determine how it will spend its portion of the $724,359 in Federal Transit Administration 5307 funds which were allocated to the Beckley urbanized area and to continue bus service to its citizens.”

James Mullins, an executive at MTA, confirmed that it will no longer offer services in the Fayette County area after Dec. 31.

According to representatives of Parsons Brinkerhoff, a consulting agency working with the Fayette-Raleigh MPO, many people in the area don’t know the public transportation options that are available. Under their proposed structure there are plans in place to educate the public about these services. They also suggest that the RCCAA could operate transit services in place of MTA under this plan.

Andy Austin, transportation director for RCCAA, said that everything is still undecided. “We have been named as a possibility, that we would be available to do that. We have not been told we are the provider.”

Austin said that it is very early in the planning process and that the RCCAA’s role so far has been to attend Fayette-Raleigh MPO meetings and observe. Austin said that all of RCCAA’s programs will remain the same through 2014.

Beckley Common Councilwoman Ann Worley said of the plans for transportation improvement, “It will open up the area for business development, a corridor for transportation and help ease traffic in congested areas. It’s good for the region, not just Beckley, and I’m excited about that.”

Worley is on the steering committee for Beckley’s comprehensive plan, which she says will be ready for its public debut early this spring. The document contains an outline of how the city plans to meet the transportation needs of Beckley.

For more information on other state MPOs, visit www.transportation .wv.gov/highways/programplanning/planning/statewide/Pages/wvmpo.aspx and for more on the Beckley Comprehensive Plan, go to www.planbeckley.com

— E-mail: cboyd @register-herald.com

 

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