By C.V. Moore
OAK HILL —
The state is bankrolling nearly 40 percent of the $15.5 million in roads projects being undertaken in support of The Summit Bechtel Reserve. The eight projects vary from intersection improvement to road construction.
The $5.9 million in state funds covers part of engineering, right of way, and construction costs for the improvements. Six of the eight projects are supported by an 80 percent match from federal sources.
Some of the projects, like upgrades and paving for Main Street in Mount Hope, or a turn lane at the Glen Jean intersection on U.S. 19, have clear local benefits for public safety and ease of access.
But it’s less clear whether 3 miles of new road that dead ends on the Boy Scout property will get much use by the public. Mill Creek Road is being widened from W.Va. 61 to a point within the BSA’s Garden Ground property.
Some county residents see the taxpayer expenses as justified, believing the dollars will easily be returned in tourism revenue generated by the development. Others think the Scouts should pay for the upgrades or question whether the state’s priorities are centered on residents or a private entity.
West Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Brent Walker said the expected economic development from The Summit made the decision to fund the roads projects a “no-brainer.”
The scope of the work came out of a traffic impact study by the BSA, according to Ali Sadeghian, a regional design engineer for DOT and the overall manager for the Boy Scout project.
The Scouts hired their own consultant to do an analysis of what sections of the roads around their facility needed to be upgraded in order to be adequate for the traffic expected for the Jamboree.
“They presented the study to the highway department and said these are the public road systems that need to be upgraded and we would like your help. They definitely had 100 percent of support from the governor’s office to make that project happen,” said Sadeghian.
The study identified six locations that needed improvement. Highways requested federal funding for the improvements, and received an 80 percent match. This is a typical cost share.
Two others, Mount Hope Main Street and Glen Jean Lane at the service entrance to the BSA property, were added later. These two are funded exclusively with $3.4 million in state money.
Walker said potential for economic development is a factor when the state chooses roads projects.
“We look at the reasons for the project, the economic impact,” he said. “That’s an important part. On projects like that with a strong economic impact, we as the DOH can’t help but partner in helping facilitate those kinds of projects. Frankly, that’s why you build roads.”
Fayette County has a total of $108.6 million currently dedicated to roads projects for the next several years. Some are now under construction and others won’t be finished until 2016.
The list includes everything from an $11.5 million replacement of the Kanawha Falls Bridge to a $13,000 upgrade of Hawks’ Nest Overlook Trail.
The $9 million Mill Creek Road enlargement on BSA property is the second most expensive project on the list, but Walker said it will be worth it.
“Any time you have something of this scope in an area that has not seen that scale of a project, it’s nothing but positive for the small businesses, the West Virginia businesses, tourism, the overall impression of the state. And it would certainly more than pay for the cost of the state’s portion of this,” he said.
On or near U.S. 19, the projects include an intersection upgrade and traffic signal at Bradley; an intersection upgrade and turn lanes at Blue Circle Road; a turn lane on W.Va. 16 at the Glen Jean intersection; a turn lane on 16 at the Greentown Road intersection; and an intersection upgrade at W.Va. 16 and 61.
Other projects include Glen Jean Lane, 885 feet of new roadway at the service entrance to the Summit at Glen Jean; 3 miles of new Mill Creek Road; and repairs and paving to Mount Hope’s Main Street.
The Mill Creek and Glen Jean Lane projects were the most expensive in terms of design, said Sadeghian. The design costs were paid in full by the BSA. The others were done in-house.
All but the Glen Jean intersection, Mill Creek Road and Mount Hope Main Street are complete, according to DOT. Sadeghian says these projects are on schedule, with an anticipated completion date of April 2013.
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