The West Virginia Division of HIghways will design, build and pay for a safer entrance to the new Huff Consolidated School.
Sen. Daniel Hall organized a meeting, held on Wednesday in Charleston, with legislators, Superintendent of Wyoming County Schools Frank “Bucky” Blackwell and his assistants, Mark Manchin of the School Building Authority and representatives of the DOH, Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Governor’s Office and Alpha Associates, the architect on the school project.
“We had a good crowd,” Hall said. “The meeting went really well.”
“We’ve been working on this for some time,” Blackwell commented. “Through a team effort from our legislators in the House and the Senate, the Governor’s Office, everybody we’ve called on, we got a letter from Paul Mattox, the Commissioner of HIghways and Secretary of Transportation.
“He indicated they were going to take care of the entrance and exit at Huff, and that was music to our ears,” he added. A letter from Mattox to Alpha Associates explained that the DOH “decided they were going develop the plans, do the work and pay for it.”
The DOH had six people present, Blackwell noted. “They’re going to schedule the construction and obtain any permits and other papers necessary,” he said. “They’ll be wokring in coordination with Norfolk Southern and the Board of Education.”
“We like to think our hard work let them know we weren’t going away (on this issue).” Hall said. “We want to thank the Governor’s Office for their help. And we thank the Highways Department for stepping up and doing their part.”
Hall said the DOH plan includes a turning lane and “entrances going north and south, and they’re going to pout double lanes on that.
“That really only leaves the railroad crossing,” Hall said. The preliminary cost of adding lights and saftey arms at the crossing is $500,000.
“There was discussion if there might be some federal grant money available for the railroad crossing,” he noted. “They’re going to research and see if money is available.”
Blackwell pointed out that the BOE has already spent $20,000 on preliminary engineering for the crossing.
“We try to be good neighbors,” he said, “the railroad is part of our culture, and we’ve educated many railroaders.
“We need the railroad to take the lead here and find out what can be done,” Blackwell said.
“We’re there for the safety of the public and the children,” he said.
Blackwell indicated FEMA money might be available since the new school location was a FEMA site after a flood a few years ago.
“They’re still working on the flood at Huff Consolidated,” he said. “I know the account is still open.”
Hall said Mark Manchin of the School Building Authority reported that the SBA would consider allowing any money left over from the school construction project to be used on the crossing.
“Through team work we got a lot worked out,” Blackwell stated. “I think we’re on our way finding an answer to make the railroad crossing safer,” he said.
Hall says he would like to bring DOH and Norfolk Southern representatives to the school site in January to look at the entrance.
“I was really pleased,” Blackwell remarked. “It was a good meeting.”