by Jim Fisher
CLARKSBURG -- Construction on a replacement VA Bridge could begin as early as next fall, according to a letter from the state Division of Highways to the city's park board.
The letter was accompanied by a map showing the division's preferred alternative for a new bridge, labeled as alternative four.
The proposal calls for a three-lane bridge, including a center turn lane. The bridge would connect to U.S. 19 between Go-Mart and Village Square on the west side of the West Fork River and across from Veterans Memorial Park on the east side.
The proposal also calls for widening the bridge approaches and adding turn lanes to ease traffic congestion. Construction would run through 2004, according to the letter.
A public meeting about the proposal is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Nathan Goff Armory. The meeting will be held in workshop format, with maps and division officials available to answer questions.
Public comments on the plan are due in Charleston by Sept. 16.
While the proposed new bridge is expected to be built over some parts of Veterans Memorial Park, James Sothen, director of the engineering division for the state Division of Highways, believes any adverse effects should be minimal and short-lived.
Sothen said construction may temporarily close portions of the Mayor's Fitness Trail. Additionally, the division may need to create a "staging area" in the park near the construction site.
According to a letter from the DOH to the city's Board of Parks Commissioners, the proposed new bridge alignment has several advantages.
Some of the advantages listed are:
n The proposed bridge and approach alignment meshes with the existing Stoneybrook Road across U.S. 19.
n Through traffic will bypass most of the park, allowing park visitors to move from the east side of the park to the west without having to cross W.Va. 98.
n Pedestrian access to the pool and picnic areas will be improved. Redirection of traffic will increase park availability.
n The proposed bridge alignment will span the Mayor's Fitness Trail without inconvenience to those using the trail.
n Just .6 acres of the park will be taken for right-of-way, while abandoned sections of W.Va. 98 can be converted into additional parking.
n Right and left turn lanes will ease traffic congestion.
Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org