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  1. Harmony Grove construction to begin in 2025-’26 fiscal year

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    MORGANTOWN — Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Highways have already said construction of a $70 million bridge across the Monongahela River will begin in spring 2024.

    It now looks as if construction of the new $30 million Harmony Grove interchange could begin as early as July 2025.

    During Thursday’s meeting of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board, three Transportation Improvement Program amendments were approved.

    All three pertained to the Harmony Grove project, including: $3.7 million in engineering work to be done in the current fiscal year; $550,000 in right-of-way acquisition in FY 2024-’25; and $25 million in construction in FY 2025-’26.

    Both the new bridge and Harmony Grove projects, totaling $100 million based on current estimates, are intended to provide better interstate access to Mountaintop Beverage and the wider Morgantown Industrial Park area.

    MPO Executive Director Bill Austin said the TIP amendments were being made at the DOH’s request.

    Inclusion in the TIP is mandatory for use of federal transportation dollars. The TIP process serves as a mechanism to ensure local support for federally funded projects.

    “For the DOH to use federal funds, they need to be approved by our policy board in the transportation improvement program. If the policy board doesn’t approve it, they cannot use federal funds,” Austin explained.

    However, unlike most transportation projects, a majority of the funding for the Harmony Grove interchange will ultimately be generated locally.

    The process was spelled out in a September 2020 memorandum of understanding between the Monongalia County Commission, Enrout Properties, and the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

    The MOU explains that in addition to extending infrastructure into the expanded industrial park, increment from the creation of the MIP Harmony Grove TIF district will be used to reimburse the state for the interchange.

    This is the same process the county and developer WestRidge used to construct I-79’s Exit 153. That project was completed for $22 million in 2016 and paid off by mid-2020, according to The Dominion Post archive.

    County Commissioner and policy board member Sean Sikora said the county and the developer will have to iron out the details of the Harmony Grove repayment with the state.

    Joe Statler, representing Blacksville on the policy board, requested the parties do so sooner rather than later.

    “I would hope that question and conversation won’t slow this project up,” he said. “Don’t stop this project for anything.”

    Original Article