Williamstown advances sidewalk project

WILLIAMSTOWN – Sidewalks to aid the community will be built this summer as city officials met with an engineer to decide where the new walking tracks will go.

City council members Barbara Lewis and Marty Seufer met Thursday evening with John Rudmann, associate land development practice leader for KCI Technologies.

The city chose the Morgantown-based firm last year for the engineering and planning of the project.

The city has a large number of areas in need of sidewalk rehabilitation or full construction, which is why more than one initiative is welcomed, according to Mayor Jean Ford.

During the meeting, Lewis and Seufer agreed with Rudmann’s recommendations to put a new sidewalk down Front Street to the Williamstown-Marietta Bridge and continue the new work along West 5th and 4th 1/2 streets and Park Avenue.

“It sounds like a plan,” Seufer said. “It would create a continuous path from Highland Avenue, down West 5th, 4th 1/2, Dodge and to the bridge.”

The new sidewalks on Dodge Avenue were built in 2011 with Safe Routes to Schools grant funding, which ensures all children have a safe way to get to school through a federal, state-awarded program.

“This is a completely different sidewalk project this time,” said Lewis, who heads up the city council’s sidewalk program. “The way the funds can be spent is completely different.”

This project, which will include signage and Americans with Disabilities approved access ramps at intersections and will be at least four-feet wide for wheelchairs to easily and comfortably use them, will cost about $250,000.

These funds are from grants and other donations and includes the city’s roughly $50,000 match. Lewis said the city’s match can be in-kind services and work.

These streets were chosen because of the foot traffic on them and because of where they are within the city.

Seufer asked why Park Avenue is a priority for the project and Lewis said its location is the key.

“It is right in the center of town and we can work from that out,” Lewis answered.

Front Street was chosen because it is next to the river and will fulfill the city’s longtime desire to create a walking path from Fenton Park on West Virginia 14 to the bridge to allow people to connect to Marietta by foot or bicycle.

“I’m passionate about Front Street because of this path to the bridge,” said Seufer, an avid walker and cyclist. “This sidewalk project could be used to jump-start the city’s bike path; we could roll the biking and walking path into the sidewalk.”

Work is expected to start in late spring or early summer with completion this year.

Williamstown has a second sidewalk program to begin when this first one ends, Lewis said.

It is unknown what streets will receive new sidewalks in that second project, but the city will work with KCI Technologies for the preliminary work on it as well.

In January, Williamstown received a $200,000 grant for this second project from the West Virginia Division of Highways with the aid of the Federal Highway Administration. The annual funding provides for West Virginia communities to build non-traditional transportation projects that include improving safety for pedestrians and bicycles through the construction of sidewalks and trails.

Lewis and Seufer said it is difficult to find which streets need new sidewalks more than others because the city has bad sidewalks throughout.

“We have so many areas with bad or no sidewalks that it is hard to decide,” Lewis said. “I wish we had a big gob of money so we could do it all, but we can’t.”