MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Now that the Chaplin Hill Gateway Project has federal funding to support its completion, local officials are looking at what will come next.

The Monongalia County Commission, along with representatives from WestRidge Development, discussed what aspects of the project will be built with the approximately $54.3 million in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project includes repairing bridges, constructing new trail networks, and reconfiguring Exit 155. Representatives from WestRidge expect the project to take place in two or more phases, with a desire to begin construction by late 2024 or early 2025.

“This is a major project in a critical artery in a very concentrated growth area,” said WestRidge Development representative Shelly Casciella. “So we want to make sure that we’re planning for the future, and we want to make sure that the region gets benefits from this for decades to come,” she said.

The first phase will focus on the reconstruction of the Exit 155 interchange and several improvement projects around it.

A new flyover that will allow for easier access to Route 19 would be included, along with the replacement of I-79 bridges over Chaplin Hill Road, the installation of digital road signs near the interchange, and the construction of a gateway feature that Casciella told the commission would be similar to one seen in Fairmont. There will also be the addition of a new bike/pedestrian shared-use path that will go east from I-79 Exit 155 and can easily connect over to the Mon River Rail Trail. With a shared-use path also expected to be constructed around the Exit 155 interchange, the project will allow increased access for the growing part of the county.

“We want to make sure that we’re planning for the future, so we have to make sure that we’re going to accommodate for any future transit extensions that go along that corridor,” said Casciella.

The second phase will place an increased emphasis on access to the western end of Monongalia County through roadway improvements. This will include the construction of a 4-lane roadway to Chaplin Hill Road that will see improvements from the extended transit service west of I-79 to Mylan Park. This is intended to support continued growth in the area of the county that has not only seen the development of one of the area’s premier recreational destinations but also commercial developments around Chaplin Hill Road.

“The next part of it is equally important with the western side of Exit 155, that’s the Chaplin Hill Business park, (and) Mylan Park,” Casciella said.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation will stay involved in the Chaplin Hill Gateway Project as a grant agreement is sorted out with the DOT and WestRidge. Once that is agreed upon, Casciella expects stakeholder meetings and public hearings to take place over the first few months of 2024, intending to begin construction on the first phase of the project by late 2024 or early 2025. With the Exit 155 interchange expected to see continued use as Mountain State residents and out-of-state visitors travel to Morgantown, WestRidge representatives, along with the Monongalia County Commission, encourage public input for the transformational project.

“We’re their first impression and I think we all have opinions about our first impression,” Casciella said. “So through public engagement, we’re going to ask for input on design features that are practical, maintainable, and our representative of our community,” she said.