CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Capital City now has the money to construct what’s called the Capital Connector project aimed at enhancing the Kanawha River by connecting the city’s East End and West Side.

The city is receiving a $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It applied for the money after receiving more than $1 million a few years ago to do an initial study.

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler said it’s time to take further advantage of the city’s most precious resource, the Kanawha River.

“We are a river city and we need to act like it,” Goodwin said at a Friday news conference. “We need to show folks that we are a river city. When you go and visit another city you go to their riverfront, I promise you that you do.”

The city is working with planners to turn the Kanawha Boulevard from roughly Haddad Riverfront Park to Greenbrier Street next to the state capitol into a mixed-use area for things like recreation, outdoor dining and just a nice place to sit down and enjoy the river, Goodwin said.

“It’s not just for biking and walking and running, which is predominantly the main use now. Guess what it’s going to be used for in the future? Art and playground and workout facilities, now we’re talking. Now we’re talking about true development,” Goodwin said.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito were key players in getting Charleston the $25 million. Capito said many take the Kanawha River for granted.

“We don’t actually stop to enjoy what is actually a beautiful part of our city and when visitors come they even forget it’s a river city,” Capito said. “So this will give us a chance to maximize it.”

The plans will include safety enhancements that will create more opportunities for pedestrians to safely cross the Boulevard. There will also be a major tree line and other landscaping enhancements.

Goodwin said there are endless possibilities.

“What does it look like to have a great experience? I don’t want to be sweating the whole time I’m running. What tree line and what flora do we need to outline that riverfront? And, most importantly, what delineates the road from biking and walking?”

It’s likely the work will include the elimination of one lane of traffic and make that part of the Boulevard three lanes instead of four. There are currently 8,500 vehicles a day on the Boulevard.

“They are doing traffic studies to see if it would be disruptive but the bottom line is not disruptive but much more enhancing than anything else,” Capito said.

The next public input meeting on the project is scheduled for the evening of Aug. 15 at the Kanawha County Public Library in downtown Charleston.

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