Turn lane at McDonalds still slated for 2018

Project has been bid and awarded, contractor has until late April to finish work

BUCKHANNON — A West Virginia Department of Highways project planned for the intersection of College Avenue and Route 20 has faced a number of roadblocks since it was given the green light in July, but it’s unclear exactly what’s holding the project up.

The $1.3 million project — designed in-house at DOH headquarters in Charleston — has been contracted out to A.L.L. Construction, which has yet to break ground on the project, DOH District 7 area construction supervisor Keith Loar said Tuesday.

“It is all the construction contractor,” Loar said. “They have a scheduled completion date, which is April 20, 2018. They keep telling me ‘two more weeks, two more weeks.’”

The project was designed to facilitate more efficient traffic flow on Route 20 by establishing a three-lane section of road from the intersection of Route 20 and Marion Street to the intersection of Route 20 and East Victoria Street, city engineer Jay Hollen said last week.

Essentially, a turning lane will be created that will enable vehicles traveling south on Route 20 to turn left on College Avenue without hindering or slowing traffic flow. The rationale for the project was a DOH study conducted in 2012 that found approximately 15,600 cars per day traveled past or through the Route 20/College Avenue intersection, Hollen said.

“By 2032, there’s a projection that there will be 21,700 cars a day [traveling past or through the intersection], so the project is taking place due to the increase in traffic volume to allow for continual movement of traffic to take place,” Hollen said.

The city isn’t sure what’s delayed the state-funded improvement, which mayor David McCauley said city officials have been talking about for at least
2 1/2 years. Meanwhile, the DOH doesn’t know what’s delaying the Mount Storm-based contractor, A.L.L. Construction, Loar said. 

The project — which will span 770 feet or .146 miles between the two intersections — was supposed to start some weeks ago, possibly even before Thanksgiving, Loar said, but A.L.L. Construction keeps postponing the start date.

According to Loar, the project was bid out June 13, 2017, and the DOH awarded the contract to A.L.L. Construction July 19, 2017.

“They were given the notice to proceed July 19, 2017,” Loar said. “They got the bond, insurance, and all that stuff and they were cleared to go. Everything on our end was ready to go, and they have a binding contract where the completion date is April 20. Now, that can be extended due to inclement weather or something like that.”

Loar said the completion date on the contract can be extended for good cause — such as a torrential downpour — on a day-by-day basis, but once the contractor exceeds the approved completion date, it’s charged assessed liquidated damages as a per day penalty.

Loar said A.L.L. Construction recently told him they would likely begin work in a few weeks “barring no complication, but I have not seen them,” he said.

A.L.L. Construction did not respond to The Record Delta’s request for comment by presstime.

McCauley said city officials have been discussing the need for the project for quite some time, and he hopes the delay doesn’t impact Buckhannon’s premier event, the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.

“We were talking about this regularly when I was still the city attorney, and I haven’t been in that role for 2 1/2 years,” McCauley said Tuesday. “I’m most concerned about it languishing for so long that it will run into Strawberry Festival, and that’s a huge time for our community. I certainly hope they can honor their contractual agreement.

“It will be a real mess if it is completely torn up in the middle of Strawberry Festival, limiting traffic flow,” the mayor added. “There’s nothing bigger that happens in Buckhannon than the Strawberry Festival. I really dread the thought of having to navigate around that.”

The annual W.Va. Strawberry Festival is slated for May 12-20, 2018, according to its website.

The project, which was designed at DOH headquarters in Charleston, encompasses much more than just the addition of a third turning lane, Hollen said last week.

“It’s not only a three-lane widening project, but also includes water distribution system improvements, sanitary sewer collection improvements, storm sewer collection improvements, relocation of gas lines and relocation of overhead electric, as well as a completely new traffic signal,” Hollen said. “The signal will be LED with ADA (Americans with Disabilities) features and visual enhancements.”

In addition, brand new sidewalks will be constructed on both sides of the project.

More In Local News