By Peggy Mackenzie
The roadway over the newly constructed pedestrian underpass at the West Virginia Fairgrounds on 219 south is now navigable and traffic has resumed as usual. While the major part of the construction project is completed, more work is still ongoing, according to Steven Cole, district manager and engineer at the Division of Highways District 9. Detailed aesthetics such as paving, stone work, gates, and so on are still in order. Cole is quoted stating the July 17 deadline is still in place for completion.
The $1.6 million federally financed project is expected to improve access to the state fairgrounds in Fairlea by linking the fairgrounds to the fair’s free parking lot. The underpass replaces the old overhead walkway, built in 1975, which gave fairgoers a safe passage across Hwy. 219. But 15 years later, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) required that ramps cannot rise steeper than one inch per foot.
Because of the ADA issue, the funding for the project was provided by the National Highway Performance program offered by the Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways. The State Fair of West Virginia, which had long sought a way to shoulder the expense of the project, is contributing 20 percent of the total cost, with DOH taking on the bulk of the highway construction expense.
The underpass was supposed to cross Hwy. 219 from an underground tunnel, but instead, the highway was raised and the underpass will stay above the grade, stated Cole.
“When you do go under a road, it is below the road grade, which means you have to concerned about water coming into the underpass. With the design we have, we will be installing the underpass at a higher elevation and building the road over top,” said Cole.
The detour road will remain in place and serve the fair during special events, according fair officials.