Planning For I-79 Interchange Begins

  • By John Antonik
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  • June 26, 2013 05:38 PM
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The Jerry West Room in the WVU Coliseum was full of engineers, developers and county officials today as the West Virginia Department of Highways begins planning for the new interchange that will link Interstate 79 to the development housing Morgantown’s new $16 million ballpark.

Will Thornton, project manager from the Department of Highways Engineering Division, was on hand to help kick off a project that will have a significant impact on the entire community.

In the morning, Thornton and other Department of Highways officials met with various environmental agencies before transitioning to separate meetings with local developers and then the County Commission prior to a three-hour public session in the evening.

“We’re sort of on two paths right now,” Thornton explained. “We’re on the environmental path to get this process approved, and we’re also beginning the process of doing preliminary design work. Typically, you do the environmental and then you do the design, but this is a fast-tracked, high-priority job, so we’re on parallel paths.”

Thornton said the objective of Wednesday's meetings is to educate everyone involved about the complexities of a project of this magnitude while also fielding suggestions and concerns from the general public. Input received from today’s meetings will be considered when the actual designing of the interchange takes place.

“There is a lot to be done and we just want to make sure everybody is focused and on board because we don’t have a lot of time,” he said.

Although design work on the bridge spanning I-79 is just starting, Thornton envisions the span will be six lanes across with sidewalks and will be able to handle bicyclists.

The interchange will be positioned to link up with County Route 46/3 on the western side of the Interstate while also making it possible to accommodate a potential bridge on the other side of the University Town Centre development that would cross the Monongahela River and run into Patteson Drive.

“What we did was we projected traffic numbers as is and how this will help,” Thornton explained. “And we also ran numbers for a connector over to Patteson and a connector to Mylan Park, just so if it ever happens in the next 10-12 years, this interchange could accommodate that.”

Because building highways and bridges in West Virginia presents its own set of unique challenges, Thornton says this will be a massive undertaking when the project gets underway next summer.

“There will be a lot of dirt moved over there,” he said.

Thornton estimated the new interchange will take approximately 18 months to construct.

“That’s pretty remarkable,” he noted. “We’ve done stuff like this before, but starting from scratch, I can’t think of anything we’ve done of this magnitude recently off hand.

“The easy part will be getting down to the pure design of it,” he concluded.


West Virginia Department of Highways, Interstate 79, new Morgantown baseball park