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Morgantown Traffic Nightmare

Beechurst Avenue back ups have been around for far too long. (image courtesy: daonline.com)
Beechurst Avenue back ups have been around for far too long. (image courtesy: daonline.com)

In my first two posts (March 28th & April 4th), I focused on the dysfunctional relationships between the City of Morgantown, Monongalia County, the state of West Virginia, and West Virginia University. My interest about these fractured lines of communication among government leaders was first piqued by the traffic problems here. I knew that this area and region had been growing for a while now, and I was shocked at how little the road network had improved relative to the amount of people now lived here.

A perfect example of how bad it is was on Jan. 12th of this year, when just about an inch of snow led to a complete gridlock across Monongalia County. Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom said the snow squall combined with dramatically dropping temperatures and high winds highlighted that there are many questions and concerns about how well local law enforcement could evacuate the area in the case of an emergency.

The reality is that every level of government from the municipal up the Mountain State’s federal Congressional delegation has failed the citizens of this area when it comes to transportation. There has been at least 25 years of steady growth  in Monongalia County, so this did not sneak up on anyone.

WVU is not without blame either. The university might be the one voice who will get all the others to put aside their differences and think about what they were elected to do: serve the citizens! So far, WVU has not stepped into the ring.

When it comes to traffic there are four major areas which create the vast majority of problems in area.

-Right in front of the WVU Coliseum is where we will start [Blue Star]. The intersection  of Patteson Dr. (WV 705) & Monongahela Blvd. (US 19 & WV 7) has been improved but the volume of traffic that tries to go through this area on a daily basis is what is causing the problems. The roads that lead to it are not adequate for the amount of volume they carry. This junction point backs up for hours M-F.

-Next is the most baffling traffic issue in the area. This is where Beechurst Ave. (Red Markers & Line) narrows down from 4 lanes to two down along the Monongahela River. This was THE major traffic issue 25 years ago when I was an undergraduate at WVU and it remains so to this day. Bloom said that there was a movement to widen Beechurst to 4 lanes all the way through, but there was no cooperation between the various government entities. Suddenly new buildings were built and businesses moved in along this stretch of heavily congested road. The sidewalks were also widened to some of the largest I have ever seen. Bloom says currently there are no plans in the works to widen Beechurst Ave. to the necessary 4 lanes.

-Now we get to look at what might be the most unpopular traffic situation in the region. The traffic circle (Green Star) on the Mileground. It is very interesting to see many different driving cultures: students from outside the area/state, students from inside the area/state, local non-students, and visitors to Morgantown try to negotiate this abomination. It is a daily train wreck from about 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. (M-F). The flow of drivers would be better if there was a regular police presence there during heavy traffic times. Bloom said he has asked the city to have officers there during traffic rush times, but they have yet to respond.

-The last area of major concern is Earl L. Core Dr. (WV 7) in Sabraton [Pink Markers & Line]. Many undergraduate students are not familiar with Sabraton, but it is a hub of activity and a major thoroughfare for those headed east and south of Morgantown. There is an exit for I-68 there and the location of many businesses. The road is only 2 lanes with a turning lane in the middle. The volume on this road is heavy daily from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. (M-F). Like Beechurst, this stretch of road needs to be widened to four lanes with a turning lane in the middle.

There are many more places in the area where the daily traffic volume clearly exceeds the capacity of the road to carry it. This leads to the roads themselves crumbling at an ever increasing rate of time. The situation is spiralling out of control and local leaders do not seem to be doing anything about other than blaming each other.

University Ave. though the heart of Downtown WVU Campus (image courtesy: wvmetronews.com)
University Ave. though the heart of Downtown WVU Campus (image courtesy: wvmetronews.com)

WVU stands by acting like an innocent bystander, but the local traffic mess has a direct impact on the overall quality of life for students and will affect enrollment (if it already hasn’t). The other issue is WVU’s internal transportation disaster. The PRT and shuttle buses are not getting it done. The strech of University Avenue that goes through the heart of the downtown campus is also something that needs to be addressed. It is absolutely amazing that more students are not hit by vehicles as they cross that street.

Traffic in the area is just one example of how the dysfunction in the relationships between elected leaders is taking away from the quality of life in what is otherwise an exciting, growing, and prosperous area.

 

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6 thoughts on “Morgantown Traffic Nightmare

  1. I am thankful I haven’t had a car during college because between the prices of parking and the traffic, it just isn’t worth. Until recently, I thought the PRT was pretty cool, and I got along with it 3 1/2 years without it breaking down on me. All my classes were downtown until this semester anyway, so I hardly needed to use the it. The new hours for the PRT are ridiculous and it seems to break down far more often. The “testing” they are doing on it should have been done during the summer. Instead, they’re making the transportation problem here even worse. The buses have always been unreliable, too. Either way, walking is the way to go. It’s always faster than taking a car around here. I agree with you. There needs to be way more collaboration and cooperation between and within government bodies and the University. If they don’t do something about the traffic – and the many other growing issues, it seems – the future of the city will be pretty bleak.

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  2. Can I just complain about the traffic circle on the Mileground? That is the most pointless, difficult pile of crap that Morgantown, West Virginia has ever aborted into this existence. That was a normal intersection that functioned completely acceptably, and then they turned it into a roundabout for no apparent reason. There was no problem there that could have been solved by a roundabout. Now, it’s become one of the biggest traffic issues in the city, and it could have been made better by literally doing nothing.

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    1. David,
      It gets better. Tom Bloom told me there is a long term plan to put another traffic circle at the intersection of Mileground Road (US 119) and Hartman Run Road (in front of the airport). I remember when NJ Gov. Christie Todd Whitman contributed out of her personal money to get the Jersey Circles removed from the state of New Jersey. They are using traffic circles in the Charleston, SC area. Somehow government leaders have been convinced that these are effective ways to move vehicles. I am with you. STUPID!

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  3. I used to think it was funny when my friends talked about traffic in Morgantown because I was in Maryland sitting in traffic on the beltway and I always said that the two traffic locations didn’t compare but I have to say with moving back to Morgantown that the traffic is more annoying here. The circle at the Mileground always fails to make since to me. In DC they regulate the flow of traffic perfectly (even though they are just as confusing there) but the circle at the Mileground seems to do more harm than good and it just seems like another half brained plan of Morgantown. Beechurst is an area that I completely avoid if possible. I would rather drive on the outskirts of Morgantown and take the extra 20 minutes out of my day then go anywhere near Beechurst. I think that its negligence on the city and university that nothing has been done to the road system to support the growing population and there is really no excuse for it in my opinion.

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    1. Sierra,
      Your perspective is exactly in mind with mine. One of the benefits of living in small city is the expectation of getting around town with relative ease. I accept traffic in a big city because of the trade off of having the benefits of more things to do, better shopping, more choices of places to eat, etc. The amount of money we talking about here is minuscule compared to the benefit this area would get from more a efficient flow of traffic. Growth would be better managed and the overall growth would be more without the needed upgrades. This would also benefit WVU for football and basketball games, graduations, move-in weekend, etc. There is a tunnel vision mentality that permeates 90% of this state (exception: Eastern Panhandle).

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  4. I think every student here has a story about Morgantown traffic. Craig, you did an awesome job at really looking at the issues here. It’s very interesting to see the perspectives of local officials and the conflicts between the city, county, and WVU.

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