Five years in the making, section of Fairmont's Locust Avenue gets new sidewalk
Mar. 3—FAIRMONT — A year since Fairmont City Council approved funding for a new sidewalk in Edgemont, construction has started on the project.
Earlier this week, a section of Locust Avenue was restricted to a single lane as construction crews began work on a new sidewalk and guardrail project along the avenue between its intersections with Fleming Avenue and McLane Drive.
This section of road is one of the most dangerous areas for pedestrians, as the road banks into a blind curve. Many individuals who live in the Edgemont area walk this street to get to Fairmont State University or the hospital and it has long been a spot of concern for community members and city staff.
Shae Strait, Fairmont's director of planning, has been concerned about the area since 2018, even before he started his current position and was a citizen in the area.
When he first pitched the idea alongside Kate Greene to the council in 2018, it was much broader in scope. Their original concept included a full sidewalk that connected the Edgemont neighborhood to the rest of the city's pedestrian network. The idea included a sidewalk down Country Club Road connecting it to the sidewalks on Fairmont Avenue and extending the sidewalk on Locust Avenue into the Edgemont neighborhood.
Once Strait took his current position, it was obvious that the project would have to take much smaller steps. In March 2022, Strait presented the first chunk of the project to council which is what is currently under construction.
"This will be a multi-year initiative to improve the sidewalks on Locust Avenue and, although slow, it will eventually get done," Strait said. "This is basically step one of many."
When the project was presented to council last March, some member of the community criticized the project saying this was a sidewalk "from nowhere to nowhere" and at first glance that is correct. Once finished, the new sidewalk will not be connected to any other existing network.
But the project had to start somewhere, and rather than start attached to an existing segment, the city decided it'd be best to take care of a segment that poses a danger to the pedestrians who walk it daily.
"The scope of this project is still not ideal because this will only get people so far, but it gets them past the most dangerous point of Locust Avenue, which is a big win for us," Strait said.
The project will not only include a sidewalk, but also a new reinforced guardrail and stormwater system, both of which were highly requested by the adjacent property owners at the project's public hearing.
The addition of the stormwater drainage system increased the cost of the project, which was bid out at $705,157. The cost of the project is being funded by tax-increment funds, which the city collects to fund improvement such as this.
The project is taking place in Fairmont's eighth council district, which is represented by first-year councilmember Bruce McDaniel. McDaniel was serving as Fairmont's interim city manager in 2018 when Strait pitched the idea.
McDaniel sees this project three ways — as a citizen, as a council member and as a former city manager. From every perspective, he sees it as a good thing for the city.
"Walkability in that area is very, very poor. You can walk on sidewalks in front of Fairmont State University then all of a sudden, you're hugging the side of the road," McDaniel said. "I personally would like to see this project on Locust Avenue tied into a similar one on Country Club Road."
While the hope is to eventually continue to new sidewalk from McLane Drive to Sands Drive, no official plans on the next steps of the project have been released.
Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.