STEUBENVILLE - Participation in area carpools and vanpools is on the rise, resulting in a need to expand parking space for those who share rides, said officials with the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Mike Paprocki, BHJ transportation study director, said in recent months 51 area residents have registered with CommuteInfo, a program of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission that matches commuters to that area with carpooling and vanpooling opportunities.
BHJ has worked for several years to promote the program.
Paprocki shared a report from the SPC that showed the number of vanpools traveling from Brooke, Hancock of Jefferson counties has risen from six to seven, with 76 participants, while registered carpools have risen from one to three.
But he said many more are carpooling, as evidenced by the large number of vehicles found at the park and ride lot at the intersection of Ohio Routes 7 and 213 north of Steubenville.
Paprocki said because of the increase, there are plans to create a new lot south of the current lot, expand the existing one and build a new one near the Harmon Creek Exit of U.S. Route 22 in Weirton.
He said the new lot near Route 213 will provide about 50 additional spaces and will be followed with improvements to the old lot, including more spaces and markings to clearly identify them.
The Ohio lots are being done through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation, with the latter providing engineering for the estimated $265,000 project.
The Harmon Creek park and ride lot, to be located across from the West Virginia Division of Highways garage, is being funded through the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Its cost has been estimated at $200,000.
Paprocki said work in both areas is expected to begin next summer.
He attributed the increase in carpooling to rising gasoline prices as well as a growing number of residents with jobs outside the three counties.
Paprocki said CommuteInfo can help residents to reduce costs for fuel and public parking by matching them with other local residents who commute to the same areas for work or school.
They need not carpool every day, he said, noting occasionally commuters may need to drive somewhere during their workday.
Officials with CommuteInfo suggest participants carpool at least twice a week.
Shawn Price, a senior engineering technician with BHJ, said many don't realize if they already have a carpool and register it through CommuniteInfo, they may benefit from its emergency ride home provision.
Through it, CommuteInfo reimburses individuals who find they must arrange for a cab home before their car- or vanpool's scheduled departure because of an emergency, illness, unscheduled overtime or other approved circumstances.
Those interested in learning more about the program may call BHJ at (740) 282-3685 or (888) 819-6110 or visit www.comuteinfo.org.
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