Interstate 70 West to Reopen

Photo by Scott McCloskey – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, left, listens as Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron speaks at Heritage Port on Wednesday. Justice came to town to announce that Interstate 70 west through the city will soon reopen and also awarded four grants for Northern Panhandle developments.

WHEELING — A good construction season and quick work by the contractor will allow Interstate 70 west to reopen by Monday at the latest, Gov. Jim Justice said during a visit to Heritage Port on Wednesday.

The governor, during his visit, also awarded state Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program grants totalling more than $454,000 to the Northern Panhandle. Wheeling received two of the grants, with Bethlehem and New Martinsville also getting money for projects.

“There’s been tons and tons of work on I-70 going on, and there have been a lot of people inconvenienced and going on detours,” Justice said. “By the end of the week — at least by Monday, weather permitting — we are now going to be able to open up one lane of I-70 west all through Wheeling and not have to get off on any detours or anything like that.

“It’s progress, and we’re moving in the right way.”

The Mount DeChantal section of I-70 past the Oglebay Park exit has been closed since February as work took place on the Interstate 70 Bridges Project in Ohio County, and motorists have had to exit there and take an alternate path along National Road through Wheeling west to the Ohio River.

This usually involved traveling up Wheeling Hill and down to Main Street in North Wheeling.

The on-ramp to I-70 west from the Fulton area of Wheeling reopened earlier this month.

West Virginia Division of Highways District 6 Engineer Tony Clark said the plan is to reopen the Mount DeChantal Bridge section of the highway on Friday, but expected rain could delay work and prolong the opening until Monday.

“By Monday, you should be able to drive I-70 westbound clear through and not have to get off on the detour that’s been in place since February,” Clark said.

Justice next presented the recreation grants, which are administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation and funded by the U.S. Highways Administration.

The largest of the grants was for $240,864 for the construction of Wheeling Robrecht Riverfront Park. The money is to be used to design a plan to turn a blighted 3-acre Brownfield area into a riverfront park and trailhead for Wheeling Heritage Trail. It would establish 0.46 miles of pedestrian and trail facilities, according to Justice.

The space is located in Center Wheeling just off Main Street, right across the Main Street bridge. It is the site of the former Robrecht Grocery property, and is located next to Celeron Plaza and the parking lot that holds Main Street Bank’s drive-through.

“We’re turning a property that isn’t necessarily worthless — but a property that isn’t being utilized — into something great,” Justice said.

Because it provides a connection to Wheeling Heritage Trail, this would result in economic benefits to downtown and Center Wheeling, according to Justice.

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said the area in question previously was marketed as a potential site for The Health Plan.

“It became very clear that it is a Brownfields site, and it would not be available for public sector development,” he said.

The city then began to look into ways to put the property into use, according to Herron.

He said development of the park trailhead will become valuable to the city as Wheeling embarks on its streetscape project next year.

Wheeling also received a grant for $152,000 for the Oglebay Trails Maintenance and Repair project.

A third grant for $50,000 was presented to the city of Bethlehem for its recreational trails program.

The city of New Martinsville also received $11,590 for the extension of its bike trail.

Justice said Wheeling “has been very, very great to me over the years,” and he doesn’t want those living in Northern West Virginia to think Charleston is ignoring them.

“We have got a state now that is genuinely really percolating and moving in the right direction,” he said.


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