Students look to alleviate traffic issue with Tunnelton underpass

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fairmont State engineering students will spend the spring semester addressing an ongoing concern in the Tunnelton community—the underpass. The senior capstone course students, under the direction of Professor Tia Como, P.E., will bring practical knowledge into the classroom and partner with area leaders to propose solutions to Tunnelton’s underpass issues. 

The Tunnelton project was recommended by key course consultant, Mr. Donald (Donny) Williams, P.E., P.S., formerly WV Division of Highways District #4 Engineer, Civil & Environmental Consultants (CEC) will also serve the project.

“This project has noteworthy academic elements and is a problem worth exploring,” said Como. “The existing road experiences dangerous flooding and when this occurs it cannot safely accommodate the traffic mix. Because it is the most direct route into the community, emergency situations pose dangerous time concerns, since the alternative routes are not ideal for all vehicles. In addition, the route is traveled by various buses carrying up to 70 children.”   

Viable options will be explored considering the limitations of the CSX railroad and stream, complications of a rural terrain, and shared ownership between the WV DOH, the city of Tunnelton and CSX.  Consideration will be given to utilities, right-of-way acquisition, environmental issues, and any other noteworthy concerns uncovered by researching and visiting the site.  

Continued partnerships with the West Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program(WV LTAP) will give the students the opportunity to collect continuous traffic data via radar recorders. Andrew Mogan, P.E., Program Coordinator, trains the students on using the recorders which provide pertinent data on the number of vehicles, their size and speed. This information provides average daily traffic (ADT) values, peak demands, and the selection of an appropriate design vehicle. Kim Carr, Program Coordinator, delivers training on effective presentations. The WV LTAP is housed at West Virginia University and is part of a national organization with a network of 51 centers throughout the US and Puerto Rico.  

We wanted to notify the community of this professional service project and inform the stakeholders that Fairmont State students may be seen all semester evaluating the surrounding area.  We are also requesting public comments, the public is encouraged to fill out the survey that can be found at  We also plan to present our initial ideas for further public comment before rendering decisions.  The date and location will be announced early March.

Afterwards, the class will present their final product to members of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE) North Central WV Chapter.  These professionals further critique the proposed alternatives to enhancing the learning process.  This forum is also open to the public and will be held as a dinner meeting on May 2 at the Bridgeport conference center for a nominal fee.  RSVP to Brandon LeRoy by April 26 at  The completed class deliverables include a written report, technical drawings, and an oral presentation.  

Transportation is one facet of Civil Engineering Technology, a dynamic field that’s sure to keep you on your toes because no two projects are alike.  Fairmont State is pleased to have this opportunity to work with industry professionals and the public to provide a thought-provoking and incredibly real capstone experience by addressing a serious problem affecting Preston County.