Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Taylor County Meeting Minutes

Route 50 Association Meeting

Taylor County Senior Citizens Center

March 17, 2004

County Commission President, Tony Veltri, welcomed attendees who introduced themselves.

Dr. Spiggle gave a brief overview of the formation of the Route 50 Association.

o Grant and Mineral County Commissions had safety concerns of Route 50 in those counties.

o After a meeting to discuss these concerns in those two counties an idea was conceived to form a group to speak on common grounds for safety and modernization of Route 50

o Route 50 is one of only a few of east-to-west roads in the country

o Route 50 is a national road

o Idea to build around county commissions from Virginia state line to Harrison County.

o All counties along Route 50 have expressed interest in this goal

o To organize, meetings will take place in counties along Route 50

o Identify improvement groups to be involved—Chambers of Commerce, Development Authorities, etc.

o As a result of previous meetings, two documents were defined—a strategic plan and guidelines for the group

o Two issues that came to the forefront were a need to do a memo of understanding and money to make the process work

o Last meeting was held in Garrett County, Maryland in January

A review of the minutes from the January meeting, Mr. Bill Wood of the WVDOH stated that the first concern of the DOH is safety; 4-laning is more for function not for number of travelers; outlined that section from Grafton to Clarksburg is being looked at for possible improvements.

Dr. Spiggle outlined the agenda for the day’s meeting:

o Get to know one another better

o Hear from county commissions of their concepts of what should be done within their counties—both short- and long-term

o Acknowledge advantages and assets of Route 50 of being a scenic by-way

o Acknowledge transportation issues including north and south as well

Taylor County representatives stated how the county’s plan came about and began with short- and long-term plans for Route 50 in Taylor County. Spencer Wooddell and Bob Knotts presented Taylor County’s whole transportation plan of which Route 50 has the most problems and areas of concern.

o 3.8 miles from 279 by-pass to AFG Industries

o 279 by-pass to Grafton city limits—approximately 13 miles

Doug McKinney stood and gave his views on the need for improvements to Route 50. Mr. McKinney stated that he was glad to see local people getting involved instead of the state making the decision for them.

Mr. Wood of WVDOH responded that he was aware of the Taylor County Comprehensive Plan, transportation section, for Route 50 but had not seen the plan to date but knew it had been given to the state. He stated that the DOH has recognized and are addressing needs from other lists but they are working toward some of the proposed projects. He also stated that some bridges are underway.

Darvin Wolfe of Preston County talked about transportation issues in his county. He stated that only 29 miles of Route 50 runs through Preston County but it is some of the roughest areas of Route 50. He stated that the county’s emphasis is on other areas and roads in the county. He commented that both ends need to be done first and “meet in the middle”. He listed areas of importance, however:

o Hairpin Curve (big s curve) removed

o Truck lanes on Cheat Mountain, if possible

o Certain curves need to be straightened

o Intersection of Route 50 and 92 North has a beaver problem (according to DOH, 17 beavers have been removed)

Roger Newman, president of the Preston County Chamber of Commerce stated that he feels that growth between Harrison County and Taylor County should be given consideration. In Preston County, the areas of major growth are mainly in other areas of the county but Route 50 in Fellowsville is a concern.

Mr. Wood responded that DOH recognizes that both Preston County and Taylor Counties have problems and that these counties have identified their problems and feels that Preston County has a handle on them.

Garrett County Commissioner, Dave Beard, stated that his county has 9.25 miles of Route 50 and there are no particular accident sections or safety concerns, which Fred Crowser (?), of MDDOH reiterated. Ms. Clatterbuck checked into Route 50 being a scenic by-way.

Janice Larew, Mineral County Commission, stated that Route 50 in her county is not as bad as reported by other counties. There is an area of concern and that is New Creek through Burlington to Hampshire County. The WVDOH agreed and stated that Corridor H will eliminate some of their problems. She commented that according to DOH most of their traffic is local but county commission does not agree. Some improvements that Mineral County would like to see are:

o More guardrails

o Improvements to road shoulders

o One area needs sight distance

o Turning lanes in some areas

o Logging business need to get to some companies

o No fatalities in their county

o 111 accidents due to road conditions

Route 50 to Grant County line is very winding and if they had to choose a section, it would be this section. No definite plans at this time but they are coordinating with the DOH and their legislators.

Greg Bradfield of Hampshire County spoke next. This county borders Frederick County, Maryland and is a metro area. They have a bottle-T road from Capon Bridge to ___________ Mountain. Fifty-two percent of the workforce goes to Winchester, VA and they are putting in an industrial park in this area.

Bill Wood, of WVDOH commented that DOH recently studied Hampshire and Grant County areas for safety and stated that truckers also use this road to go to Cumberland.

The county’s response was that they felt car traffic is heavier than truck traffic and is more of a problem.

Grant County Economic Development Director, Elwood _________ presented comments and areas of concern:

o Route 50 in Grant County is approximately 13 miles

o Mt. Storm is halfway in between

o 4-5 miles to Corridor H

o public water all along Route 50

o People from the Valley, Mt. Storm, etc. go to Oakland, Friendsville, and Morgantown

o Not sure if there will be a lot of traffic once Corridor H is completed

o 83 accidents and 7 fatalities from Mt. Storm to Gormania

o Birms are fairly good

Short-terms needs:

o Need reflectors in the middle of the road (hard to see road in the fog)

o Improved signage for what is ahead

Long-term needs:

o 2 bridges need to be replaced

o Bottom of grades need to have turn-off lanes

A statement was made that Route 50 is considered a scenic by-way and that there is a lot of blight along the highway that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Wood of WVDOH commented that state made commitments to the county due to Corridor H and that a study was done with Maryland regarding Corridor H and a second study is being done for the Shere area north to Cumberland, Maryland.

Dr. Spiggle commented that at the last meeting of the association no transportation committee was formed on transportation needs and wants each county to prioritize needs for their respective county.

Deb Clatterbuck made some additional comments regarding scenic by-ways and the promotion of Route 50 as such:

o Route 50 national yard sale

o Route 50 from Maryland to Grafton is already considered a scenic by-way (Northwestern Turnpike)

o From Maryland to Virginia they are working on this designation

o Benefits of a scenic by-way designation: get federal dollars with only a 20% match; All-American road status

Questions and concerns raised regarding Route 50 as a scenic by-way:

o Should Route 50 be named the same all the way through?

o Officially in Maryland and Virginia it is named George Washington Highway

o If designated as a scenic by-way, can upgrades still be done? (response from DOH—yes)

o Route 50 in Maryland—doesn’t like to see widening and such in Maryland; maybe a conflict with other states

o Mick Swick from Taylor County remembers signs for George Washington Highway; George Washington surveyed this road and there is a survey marker still standing in Taylor County; feels that older areas of Route 50 need to be scenic by-ways

Dr. Spiggle noted that an issue was still on the table—is the name George Washington Highway or Turnpike. The DOH was asked but they were not sure. This will be an open item on the agenda and was tabled until the next meeting of the association but be mindful of Maryland’s experience.

Dave Sypolt from Preston County stated that he had to objection to naming many areas George Washington Highway but not Turnpike.

Buck True and David Mole talked about transportation initiatives and issues:

o Appalachian North/South Corridor project—lobbied for this connector to PA turnpike and Somerset to Corridor H in WV; right now using I-68, MD 53, and WV 220 to get to Corridor H

o Route 219 is a separate Appalachian Corridor project—completion by 2010 for 4-lane divided interstate from Grantsville, MD to Somerset, PA

o WV & MD--$2 million to begin planning activities but cannot agree on a MOU between them (preliminary engineering on environmental impact statement); they have been working on this since 1996

Buck True made the following comments:

o Stated that he started on roads 5 years ago

o Felt that no one cared about roads

o He said that it took one year to develop a plan to take to Charleston and present it to Cultural Center

o He feels that Route 250 needs upgraded due to limited business to buy basic needs.

o There are plans for a Barbour County high-tech commercial area

o Feels that this area can be a revolution for industrial development

o Feels that this area is being neglected in regards to roads

o Feels that interstate must improve for counties—can’t commercialize without interstates

o Feels that state should grant rural to counties

o All of these would improve conditions in each of the counties

DOH representatives, Bill Wood, Marvin Murphy, and Tom Freeman talked about the state road program.

o Not how much you ask for but what you can do with what you get

o 4-lane between Belington and Route 250

o Suggested that counties meet with DOH representatives as they are easy to work with

o Choose the worse areas and DOH will assist

o They are waiting on a finalized report from Norm Roush to get something done

Dr. Spiggle thanked and congratulated Mr. True on his efforts. He stated that a regional co-op would fit in the state’s plan “A Vision Shared”.

Dr. Spiggle also thanked all attendees for coming to the meeting.

The next meeting for the Route 50 Association will be in Mineral County at 1:00 p.m. with a meeting place to be announced.