By Wendy Holdren
Since the 2010 Census, the Beckley/Fayette area population has surpassed 50,000 and with that urban designation comes many exciting opportunities.
David Cole, executive director of the Planning and Development Council for Region One, joined Beckley Common Council Tuesday night to discuss the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is a federally mandated transportation planning council for urbanized areas.
Cole said the Beckley/Fayette area will be the eighth MPO designated in the state, but it is unique because most MPOs cross state lines. The only other MPO in the state that does not cross the state line is in the Charleston area.
He described the MPO as “a planning entity to plan for future transportation projects.”
This organization will not be involved in construction or design of the projects, simply the planning phases.
A Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) covers a period of at least 20 years and a short-term plan, a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), will be created for the upcoming four years.
Cole said the planning will involve the general public from all areas that will be affected. The urbanized area includes Sophia, Shady Spring and the greater Beckley area into Fayetteville. There are approximately 64,000 people in this region.
“This really boils us to the top. Olive Garden didn’t come here because someone thought it was a nice town. Statistical data shows them they could make money here.”
He said that data goes hand-in-glove with the transportation act, because with a higher population comes a higher demand for transportation.
If a mass transit system were to be put into place, Cole said the MPO status would allow this area to receive federal money.
“It’s a very exciting position we’re in.”
Mayor Emmett Pugh said this “gives us a seat at the table we’ve never had before.”
He said he believes it will be beneficial to both Raleigh and Fayette counties.
A resolution was also approved for council to administer a $12,000 grant from the Governor’s Community Participation Grant Program to benefit the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia.
The funds will be used to make restorations and upgrades to the restrooms, classrooms and exterior of the facility.
Under new business, Councilman Chris Hall noted that during widespread power outages, many street lights and traffic lights are affected in high traffic areas. He said he fears accidents will occur if this issue is not addressed. Mayor Pugh agreed the issue should be addressed.