For those who've driven on Route 50 past Maple Lake in Bridgeport recently, it is hard not to notice the huge cut in the landscape adjacent to the highway.
The construction is part of the Bridgeport Bypass project which will be a four-lane highway from Rt. 50 to I-79. The stretch of highway will be a total of 2.76 miles and is part of the I-79 transportation plan designed to relieve traffic congestion.
Sam Beverage, acting secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, and Delegate Bobbie Warner toured the construction site Monday afternoon and Beverage gave an update on the project.
The project is on schedule for its expected completion date of July 2001, Beverage said.
"The project came to being in less than two years," he said.
"Projects of this magnitude generally take six to eight years."
Beverage attributes the accelerated time frame to the fact that the project is 100 percent state funded and that the Legislature, governor, and community have worked together.
The road will be a key element for economic development and growth in Harrison County due to its connecting route to the airport, Warner said.
Beverage believes the bypass is a significant piece of road. He classified it as the first part of the four-lane highway going into Grafton and believes it will open up Taylor County to the east.
Economic development at the airport and commuters from Taylor County will make up part of the traffic on the bypass, Beverage said.
The bypass is a necessity, Beverage said.
"Consultants did a study about three years ago on the I-79 Corridor, and this area is growing so quickly that we predict that I-79 will be a gridlock in less than 10 years," he said.
The Division of Highways is currently in the process of widening I-79 to accommodate some of the traffic, Beverage added.
The DOH is also conducting a study to determine whether to make Rt. 19 from Clarksburg to Shinnston into a four-lane highway, he said.
The total cost estimate for the Bridgeport Bypass project is about $21.8 million and is completely funded by bond funds, Beverage said. The cost is less than $8 million per mile.
The project is cost efficient, according to Beverage, based on the fact that it is not uncommon in West Virginia to spend $25 to $30 million per mile for a four-lane highway.
The Bridgeport Bypass will bring more jobs and more economic development to the area and lessen congestion into the Bridgeport area, Beverage said.
Another benefit of the bypass is highway safety, according to Beverage.
"Four-lane highways reduce the number of accidents by 60 percent," he said.
Area residents have been mostly supportive of the project, Warner and Beverage said.
"To attract the kind of businesses we need and the kind of jobs that they'll create, we need to have the infrastructure already in place and that's what we're doing," Warner said.
Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.