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City Eyes $500,000 for Sidewalk Repair on Wheeling Hill

Photo by Eric Ayres - City officials are moving forward with plans to repair the sidewalk on Wheeling Hill along National Road from McColloch’s Leap to the area near Generation’s Restaurant & Pub.

WHEELING — Wheeling city officials are looking forward to bringing to fruition in 2022 a long-awaited plan to rehabilitate the deteriorating sidewalk on Wheeling Hill on U.S. 40.

The lengthy sidewalk along National Road from McColloch’s Leap to the area near Generations Restaurant & Pub at the bottom of Wheeling Hill in Fulton has remained closed to pedestrian traffic in recent years.

The condition of the scenic hillside walkway has been progressively worsening for many years with uneven slabs, crumbling stone barriers and other safety issues.

In September of 2019, a section of the sidewalk near the top of the hill by the McColloch’s Leap hillside monument actually collapsed, leaving a gaping hole in the sidewalk.

The city announced at that time the sidewalk would be closed until further notice pending needed repairs.

While many sidewalks in the city have fallen into disrepair, the Wheeling Hill sidewalk is situated along a busy traffic artery in the city and has remained in the public spotlight in terms of the Friendly City’s most needed sidewalk repairs.

Legislation was introduced before Wheeling City Council this month to authorize an agreement with Alpha & Associates of Morgantown to provide architectural and engineering design services for a project to replace the sidewalk on Wheeling Hill. The ordinance is slated to come before Wheeling City Council for a second and final reading on Feb. 1.

“We’re excited to take the first step to repair the sidewalk on Wheeling Hill,” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said. “This is a long-overdue project that is much needed. This work is being funded by the city service fee.”

The cost of the contract for design and engineering services with Alpha & Associates is $9,200. However, the overall repairs to the entire sidewalk are estimated to be around $500,000.

In recent years, the city has spent millions of public dollars on infrastructure projects — including a number of water and sewer projects. Many of those investments, however, have been to underground infrastructure, and the public does not really see upgrades like these — aside from the removal of orange barrels and construction equipment when they are completed.

Mayor Glenn Elliott this week noted that projects like the Wheeling Hill sidewalk replacement are investments that the public can actually see and fully appreciate. The project is one of many city infrastructure projects that had made a master list when the city council’s Public Works Committee worked with city staff to prioritize projects that should be funded by the new city service fee — or user fee.

“This was one of the key projects identified by the prior city council in our discussions on how to allocate the infrastructure portion of the city service fee revenues,” the mayor said. “We intentionally delayed such work until the route itself was not being utilized as a detour for any of the I-70 Bridges project.”

At the beginning of 2020, the city of Wheeling began charging people who work in the city $2 per week as part of the new user fee. The primary purpose of the fee is to generate money for the city’s new public safety buildings, including the projects to create new headquarters for the Wheeling Police and Fire departments. Half of the funds generated from the user fee, however, are earmarked to go toward completing needed infrastructure projects in the city.

While city officials have conceded that the implementation of the user fee was not popular, the significant improvements these funds are bringing to life in the city have been welcomed by the public.

Of the $2 per week fee paid by each worker in the city, $1 of that money goes toward future debt on the public safety facilities, while the other $1 is earmarked to go toward projects that are needed but do not necessarily have other sources of funding for their completion.

Elliott explained that although U.S. 40 is maintained by the West Virginia Division of Highways, the city has maintained ownership and is responsible for making repairs to the sidewalk on Wheeling Hill.

“Normally, such a sidewalk adjoining a state route would be the responsibility of the West Virginia Division of Highways,” Elliott said Friday. “However, in the 1970s, the city and the DOH entered into an agreement whereby the city would take responsibility for maintenance of the curb, sidewalk and fencing alongside Wheeling Hill. As such, with this pedestrian corridor currently unsafe for pedestrian usage, it is the city’s responsibility to return it to usable and safe condition.”

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