Bloom asking for clarification on Wriston’s Harmony Grove comments

MORGANTOWN — The reassurance provided in October, when Gov. Jim Justice sat in front of Mountaintop Beverage and promised “two accesses” to the Morgantown Industrial Park, took a serious hit Tuesday when Department of Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston seemed to tell state legislators that he has his doubts. 

Now Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom is calling on Wriston for some clarification. 

For the last three-plus years, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Enrout Properties and the Monongalia County Commission have been working toward the construction of a new Harmony Grove interchange to provide direct interstate access to the Morgantown Industrial Park. 

The interchange was not wish list infrastructure. It was actually promised by the state to land the massive Mountaintop Beverage facility in West Virginia. 

Trucks began rolling in and out of the 330,000 square-feet that comprise Phase I of the bottling plant in May, but due to the complexities of the federal regulatory process surrounding interstate projects, the DOH couldn’t make good on that promise in a timely manner.  

So, in July, the state announced that it was not only going to push forward with the Harmony Grove interchange but build a $70 million bridge across the Monongahela River to the MIP in the meantime.  

That announcement raised eyebrows.  

Would both projects actually get built? 

Justice said yes. 

“Now listen, if there’s anybody here that says, ‘Well, they’re going to build this one, but that means they’re taking all the emphasis away from Harmony Grove.’ Don’t think that,” Justice said in October. “I’ll make mistakes, but I’ll never ever tell you something knowingly that I know is not true. I won’t do it and that’s all there is to it. So, today I am telling you this is going to give us two accesses.” 

That optimism was bolstered in November, when, at the state’s request, the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board moved $30 million worth of work tied to the Harmony Grove interchange onto its Transportation Improvement Program, making it eligible for federal funds.   

Then came Tuesday, when Wriston told state lawmakers that while the state remains on board, it’s ultimately out of the state’s hands. 

“We have always committed to that project. We know that it’s feasible. … I would bet you a dollar against a doughnut that the minute we start that other bridge project, the federal agencies may take a harder look at the interchange,” he said. 

During Wednesday’s Monongalia County Commission meeting, Bloom said he’d like to know exactly what that means. 

“I’m just asking for a clarification. I’m sure he means they’re going to move it forward quicker, but I think it’s important that Monongalia County get a clarification on that statement.” Bloom said.   

The Dominion Post has reached out to the WVDOT seeking clarification and to ask if there’s been any communication with federal agencies about whether the bridge project would jeopardize the Harmony Grove interchange. This report will be updated with any new information it receives.

TWEET @DominionPostWV

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *