Clements To Push For I-68 Expansion

WHEELING — Expanding Interstate 68 from Morgantown to Moundsville will be on the agenda when the West Virginia Legislature convenes next month, Sen. Charles Clements, the new chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said.

Clements, R-Wetzel, takes over as chairman when the Legislature convenes in January. He has served as executive director of the Route 2 and I-68 Authority.

“Hopefully can get on the radar of the (West Virginia Division of Highways),” he said. “Right now, it doesn’t seem to be looking at this as priority. A lot of us think if a cracker plant comes to fruition here, this highway would be a piece of the puzzle to connect us to the deep water port in Baltimore.

“I -68 could be very important in the development of the downstream industry from the cracker hub,” he added.

Clements sees the expansion of the road leading to improved economic conditions in undeveloped areas between Marshall and Monongalia counties, and then leading into Marion and Harrison counties.

“If you think about it, everywhere the interstate has gone business has developed,” he said. “Developers will be looking for downstream sites from the cracker plant, and this highway will be important in attracting business.”

Marshall County Commissioner Bob Miller has been at the forefront in championing the need to expand I-68, but he leaves office at the end of 2018. Clements said Miller likely still will be involved in pushing for the I-68 expansion.

“We will be working with Bob Miller, and we hope to use his connections and expertise to continue our efforts,” Clements said. “Even though he will not be county commissioner, he is definitely someone wanting to see development in the area. We will give him some opportunity to open doors.”

Clements said many believe members of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee “spend a lot of time sitting around and naming bridges,” but this session the committee will be looking at legislation to ensure safety when vehicles must share the road with large trucks used by the oil and gas industry.

The Wetzel County Oil and Gas Task Force has formed a road and safety committee, which has crafted its own list of suggested “best practices” for oil and gas industry vehicles traveling local roadways.

Among their suggestions is that the trucks avoid roads where school buses are traveling before and after school. While most companies voluntarily adhere to the suggestions, not all do and they aren’t required to abide by them.

“We’re hoping to get this moving,” Clements said.

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