WEIRTON - Ridership on Weirton Transit Corp. buses increased to an all-time high of 5,710 during October, beating the previous record of 5,509 set in March 2012. September ridership ranked fifth highest ever.
"Three of the last four months have been huge months," according to Transit Manager Kevin Beynon. "Almost across the board we have a pretty good increase from what we had last year."
"I think it shows that there's a definite need, and that need is increasing," WTC board member Walter Angelini said. "But also it shows that you and your staff are doing something right."
On Nov.13 Weirton Transit purchased a 2013 Econoline high-top van with two wheelchair positions, child seats, on-board recording equipment and additional safety features like a rear-view camera for backing up. A new bus that seats 18 passengers is expected to be added to the fleet in early December with some help from the state.
Last Saturday Weirton Transit drivers underwent intellectual disability training provided by associates of the Rahall Transportation Institute at Marshall University. One employee described it as a "fantastic program," according to board members
"They learned a lot about how to handle different situations and what to look for," Beynon said.
In other business, members discussed the need to fill an open board position as well as participation in the upcoming Christmas parades in Weirton and Wellsburg.
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Coal shipments by rail may be down in southern West Virginia, but more of those containers hauling high-value freight are up.
In a little over a year, southern West Virginia will play a bigger part in the worldwide movement toward container-based shipping.
Intermodal traffic on Norfolk Southern's Heartland Corridor in the third quarter was up 19 percent from the year before. The corridor runs from the ocean port at Norfolk and through southern West Virginia on its way to Cincinnati and Chicago.
The third-quarter growth comes as the Heartland Intermodal Gateway at the Wayne County community of Prichard nears completion. When it's finished in late 2014 or early 2015, the infrastructure will be in place for businesses in southern West Virginia and nearby parts of Ohio and Kentucky to join the movement to move merchandise by both rail and truck.
"The Heartland Corridor continues to be robust. We don't expect quarter-to-quarter increases of 19 percent," Donald W. Seale, chief marketing officer of Norfolk Southern, said in a conference call last week. "That would be a compounding phenomenon. But it's going to continue to be a robust growth corridor for us."
In an interview with The State Journal, Jeff Heller, vice president of intermodal and automotive for Norfolk Southern, said most of the traffic that moves on the Heartland Corridor runs from Hampton Roads to the Midwest, but it also handles some traffic from Charlotte, N.C., to Columbus, Ohio.
Prichard will open around the time upgrades to the Panama Canal are completed. Those upgrades are expected to increase shipments to East Coast ports, including Hampton Roads.
The port of Hampton Roads has picked up market share from other East Coast ports this year, and "we're the beneficiary of a good part of that," Heller said. Some containers originate overseas, are transferred to rail at Hampton Roads and eventually make their way to the West Coast, he said.
Many of the containers that move on the corridor are filled with consumer goods such as electronics, footwear and clothing, Heller said.
The Heartland Intermodal Gateway is being built by the West Virginia Public Port Authority. The port authority has contracted the marketing of the facility to the Rahall Transportation Institute, or RTI, at Marshall University.
The intermodal facility at this point is 25 percent complete, with completion scheduled for December 2014 or early 2015, said state Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, CEO of the RTI.
While consumer goods may dominate traffic on the corridor at the present, Plymale said he sees the Prichard facility as a place for rail-truck transfer for consumer goods and industrial goods.
The Huntington area and surrounding areas have a number of industries that serve the automotive, transportation and industrial equipment markets.
"We're looking at a 120-mile radius," Plymale said. "That includes about 4,000 shippers that are already using containers in some way."
When it opens, Prichard will be the only terminal between Roanoke, Va., and Columbus. James D. York, executive director of the state port authority, said Prichard will serve 60 counties in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.
York described intermodal shipping as a way of getting traffic off the state's clogged highways.
And, he said, with opening about a year away, it's not too early to be signing companies that want to use Prichard's off-loading and warehouse space.
HUNTINGTON -- More than 100 bicyclists took to the streets -- and trails -- of Huntington on Saturday for the fourth annual Tour de Path.
The growth of the event, which featured guided, family-friendly ride options of four, seven 10 and 20 miles, shows that a cycling culture has taken root in Huntington, organizers said.
"More and more people are wanting to ride and support cycling," said Bethany Williams, a program coordinator for the Rahall Transportation Institute. "It's an exciting change happening in Huntington."
A lot of that change, Williams said, has occurred simultaneously with development of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, a cycling and walking trail that aims to link all of the city's parks and major employers. PATH is named after Dr. Paul Ambrose, who was a promising young physician whose life ended Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Ambrose focused his medical career on family health and using preventative medicine to fight obesity.
The first phase of PATH began this year and is almost complete. Trail sections in Guyandotte and Harveytown are finished, and a trail on top of the earthen levee from 3rd Street West to Westmoreland is almost done. The rides during Tour de Path used those sections.
"It's given people new places to ride, but it's also helped people become a little more comfortable with riding on the road since the trail sections are not connected just yet," Williams said.
Commuter bike maps of Huntington also were unveiled during Tour de PATH and distributed to all of the participants. Copies also will be made available at Jeff's Bike Shop, 740 6th Ave., and at Huntington Cycle and Sport, 1455 4th Ave. Both bike shops made donations to print the maps.
Carrie-Meghan and Harold Blanco were among the cyclists who went on the 20-mile ride Saturday. Carrie-Meghan Blanco said the trail system has made cycling more visible in the community.
"It's brought awareness to the fact that we need a safe place to ride," she said. "Cycling is free, healthy and fun. You can't beat that."
HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington Junior League volunteers cheered on several area children recently at the annual Fit Fest in Ritter Park.
There were more than a 100 kids that participated in either the 25- or 50-yard-dash, a half mile /or one mile run. As the kids crossed the finish line, the Junior League volunteers passed out water and fruit to the kids and promoted its Kids in the Kitchen program to the community.
The Junior League's Kids in the Kitchen program is designed to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, especially to children. The KITK events generally take place at local schools in the Tri-State. These events promote eating healthy and staying active by educating children on what foods provide the best nutrients for the body, as well as performing physical activities and exercises with the kids, according to a news release.
The Junior League of Huntington brought the program to the Huntington community in 2009 and since has impacted the lives of more than 500 children and their caregivers. The program's mission is to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity.
For more information about local Kids in the Kitchen events, visit www.jlofhuntington.org, and for more general information about the Kids in the Kitchen program, visit www.Kidsinthekitchen.org.
HUNTINGTON -- Ken and Sharon Ambrose saw several years of widespread community support for a pedestrian and biking trail named after their son reach another milestone Sunday.
During the fifth annual Fit Fest at Ritter Park, runners who competed in the 10K race got to use the Harveytown section of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, which was among the first three sections built this year.
Fit Fest is hosted yearly in the park on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It raises money for the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH). The trail is named for a Barboursville High and Marshall med school graduate who was a rising star in Washington, D.C., in the field of public health when his life was cut short on Sept. 11.
Fit Fest honors Ambrose by raising money for a cause that was dear to him: fighting obesity. Along with races for kids and adults, the event featured a climbing wall, face painting, exercise stations, music and more.
"In a sense, the trail is a living memorial to Paul, and to see it come together like it has over the past year feels good," Ken Ambrose said. "It really feels good."
"They look great," Sharon Ambrose said of the completed sections. "Some of it is located in areas where people otherwise don't have easy access to walking trails, and that's wonderful."
The first phase of PATH included a half-mile trail that linked Harveytown Park to the western end of the Ritter Park walking trail, a 1.25-mile trail that runs from the Guyandotte boat ramp to the Washington Boulevard Bridge in Altizer, and a three-mile section along the top of the earthen levee from 3rd Street West to Westmoreland. The latter section is almost completed.
Cassey Bowden, marketing manager for the Nick J. Rahall Transportation Institute, the lead agency of PATH, said Fit Fest's fundraising goal this year was $110,000. She expected donations received at the event Sunday to help reach that goal.
While all donations to PATH normally are an 80/20 split between construction and maintenance costs, all money raised from this year's Fit Fest will go toward transforming an old rail bridge that spans the Guyandotte River in Guyandotte into a pedestrian bridge. CSX Transportation donated the bridge to PATH in April. Officials say the pedestrian bridge will provide a better link between Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood and Guyandotte.
Tony and Heather Wheeler of Huntington brought their 7-year-old twin sons, Oakley and Vance, to Fit Fest for the second consecutive year because they like how the event unites the community against obesity in a fun way.
"We like to come to any event that teaches our kids about health and treating their bodies well," Tony Wheeler said.
HUNTINGTON -- Several children participated this week in an Experimenting with Science camp hosted by the Rahall Transportation Institute and the June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development.
On Thursday, children learned about motion as they built spinning tops and attempted to float a table tennis ball with a hair dryer.
Several spots are available for camps later this month. The camps are offered to children in pre-K through eighth grade and are based on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. Class sizes for each are limited and pre-registration is required.
Upcoming camps include:
Young Builders, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, July 29 to Aug. 2, Marshall's Morrow Library, Room 100. Cost is $69 per child. For children 5 years old through third grade.
Technology Art, 10 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, July 22-26, Marshall's Morrow Library, Room 100. Cost is $89 per child. For children in third through eighth grades.
Technology Building, 1 to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, July 29 to Aug. 2, Marshall's Morrow Library, Room 100. Cost is $89 per child. For children in third through eighth grades.
Robotics, Lego Education Green City Challenge, 1 to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, July 22-26, Marshall's Morrow Library, Room 100. Cost is $99 per child. For children in fourth grade and older.
To register for RTI camps, visit www.njrati.org. For additional information, call 304-696-2945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUNTINGTON -- The monthly Party on the Patio at Heritage Station took a turn for the pink Friday night.
Guests at the event were encouraged to dress in pink in support of the PATH to the Cure, which benefits St. Mary's Pink Ribbon Fund and the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health.
The PATH to the Cure 5K is set for 3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 29, at the St. Mary's Center for Education, and guests at the party could pre-register for the event.
Classic garage rock band Oakwood Road Band took to the stage during the party at Heritage Station, where several businesses in the plaza stay open just for the party.
The next Party on the Patio at Heritage Station is set for Friday, July 19, when Jabberwocky will perform.
HUNTINGTON -- Registration is now open for the 5th annual FitFest, an annual fundraiser for the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health.
The event will start at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at Ritter Park. The event includes activities such as a 5K run/walk, 10k run; free kids' dashes, 1 Mile Fun Run, healthy exhibits and demonstrations. Both routes start inside Ritter Park and head west on North Boulevard. The 5K route turns at the Memorial Arch and proceeds east toward Ritter Park. The 10K course will continue down Memorial Blvd and turn left onto the new section of PATH through Harveytown to Ritter Park trail back to the finish line. This is a flat course with three designated water stops for the 10k and one for the 5K.
Early registration is open through Monday, Aug. 12, for $25 for the 10K Run; $15 for the 5K Run/Walk. Both guarantee a T-shirt. Those who register by Friday, Aug. 30 will pay $30 for the 10K Run and $20 for the 5K Run/Walk. Race day registration is $25 for the 10K and $25 for the 5K Run/Walk.
The first 400 participants to cross the finish line will receive the 2013 Fit Fest commemorative coin. Awards will also be given to the top 25 finishers in both the 5K and 10K.
Sponsorship and volunteers opportunities are available. Event details along with registration and course maps can be found on FitFest.org.
The HIT Center has partnered with Fit Fest to provide a Kids' Summer Marathon Training Program. Participants aged 6-12 will complete a 25 mile training program during the summer months through training at the HIT Center or logging miles individually. Training concludes with the 1 Mile Fun Run at FitFest. The $30 entry fee includes a HIT Center running plan for beginner, intermediate or advanced runners, entry into Fit Fest 2013 Kids 1 Mile Fun Run, a Special "HIT Center Summer Marathon" T-shirt and training sessions at the HIT Center.
Registration can be found online at FitFest.org or by visiting the HIT Center at 2240 5th Ave., Huntington.