Wheeling moving forward with $19M streetscape project

WHEELING — Although the city of Wheeling will not receive federal grant funding for its streetscape project, it still plans to move forward with the project and begin construction next year.

The city did not receive the more than $10 million grant it asked for from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, program, Mayor Glenn Elliott said. Despite that, he expects the project to begin in “mid-to-late 2019” and to be completed in 2020.

“We knew that it was a very competitive process,” Elliott said. “While we did not receive the federal BUILD grant, we have been working with state officials to ensure that there will be adequate funding available to complete the project as contemplated.”

The project, which would cost $19 million, would replace streets and sidewalks on much of Main and Market streets and pave portions of Chapline and Eoff streets that connect to the W.Va. 2 through ramps, he said. It also would add new traffic signals, enhanced tree placement, curb bump-outs for better pedestrian access and more prominent crosswalks.

“There is a consensus among state and city officials that this project is of vital significance for the revitalization of Downtown Wheeling and enhancement of (W.Va. 2),” Elliott said.

Part of the funding for the project has already been committed by the city and the West Virginia Division of Highways, which has worked with the city on planning the project for three years. The DOH has agreed to provide $6.7 million and the city will provide $2 million, City Manager Robert Herron said.

“Engineering is ongoing,” Herron said. “It is well underway and it is still a very active project.”

The streetscape project was originally supposed to cost $8.7 million, but the cost rose to because of several factors, Elliott said. The project now includes $3 million for new traffic signalization that was being considered by the DOH.

“This was done to avoid a situation where our downtown streetscape is torn up twice over a period of a few years,” Elliott said.

The project also will involve extensive engineering work to make sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said. Many downtown sidewalks have a slope of 5 percent or higher while the ADA requires a slope of no more than 2 percent.

In addition, the project will not involve making Main and Market streets two-way roads, as was previously proposed. The city is now considering “enhanced one-way design” that would preserve one-way traffic flow but includes features to increase pedestrian safety and walkability, Elliott said.

Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said the city is not dependent on the BUILD grant to complete the streetscape project.

“While we weren’t successful in obtaining the grant this time, we will continue to apply for any grant that we think benefits Wheeling,” Thalman said. “We are always working to obtain any state or federal grant that we are eligible for.”