Op-ed: Getting to know the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council
The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council (MOVRC) has been in Parkersburg since 1971. Created by an act of the WV Legislature, the MOVRC works to promote, advance and improve the community and economic well-being of the region. They have multiple programs focusing on community development, workforce, transportation, small business financing, business incubators and senior volunteer programs. Today we would like to highlight the Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission.
The Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission (WWW-IPC) is a federally mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Parkersburg-Marietta metropolitan area. The organization was designated in 1974 by the governors of West Virginia and Ohio for the purpose of responding to federal transportation planning legislation as it relates to the use of federal funds for transportation projects within the region. The region includes all of Wood County, W.Va., and portions of Washington County, Ohio. The WWW-IPC works in coordination with the state departments of transportation in Ohio and West Virginia, as well as local government agencies.
As a planning agency, WWW is often involved in the beginning phases of project development and serves as the local liaison throughout the life of the project from engineering through implementation. An example is the WV 14 four-lane upgrade project under construction in the Mineral Wells and Pettyville area. In 2003, the WWW-IPC introduced the concept for the continuation of the four-lane section of WV 14 just north of the I-77/Mineral Wells Interchange toward the Patriot Center. The project was conceived as a project that would provide access to new development occurring in South Parkersburg while opening large tracts of property for potential development. The WWW-IPC Policy Board, comprised of local elected officials, embarked on a mission to promote the project as a local priority and encourage the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) to program a project that would continue the existing four-lane section farther north. Like many projects throughout the state, funding for the project was competing for limited resources. Although funding wasn’t immediately available, the WVDOT agreed to pursue funding options for the project, which was officially programmed in 2006. In the years that followed, the WVDOT prepared and produced engineering documentation including the development of improvement alternatives. This process included a series of public meetings to solicit comments, which resulted in the selection of a preferred alternative in 2014. Once the preferred alternative was selected, contract plans were developed, with right-of-way acquisition beginning in October 2014. Both phases were completed in 2017. Ultimately, construction began in April 2018 and is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2019. The total project cost for all phases of work is $20,747,000. There are ongoing planning efforts to continue improvements on WV 14 north from Patriot Center to the 5th Street Bridge.
Like the WV 14 project, many projects require years of advanced planning to come to fruition. However, some projects like routine maintenance do not require the same level planning effort and can be programmed relatively quickly. Nevertheless, any project utilizing federal funds is subject to the metropolitan planning process to insure transparency and support local priorities.
Once a project is programmed at the state level, it is required to be included on the state and local Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is a listing of federally funded projects programmed by the state and scheduled for implementation over a four-year period. The TIP is amended frequently in order to include any new projects or revise an existing project with updated information.
For a project to be included on the TIP, it must be consistent with a long-range transportation plan for the region. The plan is required to have a twenty-year planning period, be financially feasible, pass air quality conformity tests, have a multimodal component consisting of transit, bicycle and pedestrian considerations, and include recommended priority improvements. The current Long-Range Transportation Plan 2035 was completed and approved by the WWW-IPC in December 2016. To meet a five-year updating requirement, WWW-IPC will begin development of a new plan during the summer of 2020. Notices of opportunities for public comment and participation will be advertised throughout the process.
The current Long-Range Transportation Plan 2035 and Transportation Improvement Program along with other pertinent program information can be found on the Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission website at www.triplew.org.
Carol Jackson is the executive director of the Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council.