MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A former Monongalia County Commissioner and current Morgantown Chamber of Commerce Vice President said voters shouldn’t use the current roads project list as a reason to vote for or against the Roads to Prosperity Amendment on October 7.
“These projects are fluid because these are what projects we have,” Eldon Callen said, referring to a presentation by DOT Secretary Tom Smith.
Monongalia County has recently become the home of a debate over the long-discussed but never realized ‘West Run Expressway’ project and what it’s potential impact could be on homes in the Bakers Ridge area if the road bond referendum passes on October 7. At a cost of $100 million, that project has come under fire from Delegate Cindy Frich (R, Monongalia – 51) — putting her directly at odds with a number of local officials in the county.
“No way it’s going to take those houses,” Eldon Callen said. “And I talked to Cindy [Frich] this morning, and you know she’s dedicated and she’s passionate. But, in this case, she’s wrong.”
Frich sent out a hand written letter to residents of the area in question, suggesting that homes could be taken or property devalued by the construction of this proposed project. Her comments have been heavily criticized by members of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and some elected officials.
“An MPO is merely making a plan to make a recommendation to the Department of Highways to decide whether this project is a worthwhile project or whether it will have positive effect for the people of Monongalia County,” Callen said.
In other words, Callen said, don’t get too attached to any one proposed project. They still need to go through the rigors of a public comment process and a thorough environmental review.
“The people will be participating throughout the process every step of the way,” he said. “Just as the Interstate-79 interchange went in [exit 153], we had five different public meetings that were laid out for the public to come and express their interests.”
What that doesn’t change, said Callen, is what the referendum does for Monongalia County and the state as a whole. The project list offers $230 million for eight separate projects.
“100 million dollars won’t buy a mile to two miles of houses on Bakers Ridge Road, let alone complete the project,” Callen said.
That is why Callen and the Morgantown Chamber of Commerce support the Roads to Prosperity Amendment.
Five separate presentations are scheduled in Monongalia County this week:
- Governor Jim Justice speaks Tuesday, September 26 at Erickson Alumni Center at 3 p.m.
- Knights of Columbus will host DOT Secretary Tom Smith and Delegate Cindy Frich on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. across from St. Mary’s Catholic Church
- District Manager Don Williams will speak Tuesday at 7 p.m. to the Morgantown City Council at their Committee of the Whole meeting, which will include a discussion item of a resolution in support of the Roads to Prosperity Amendment
- The Morgantown Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event at 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 28
- The Republican Executive Committee will host a forum in the auditorium of South Middle School Thursday, September 28 at 7 p.m.