HUNTINGTON -- The Rahall Transportation Institute and the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District teamed up Saturday to host Kids' Day at the Park.
Part of the message from the event, held at Ritter Park, was to remind residents of the number of parks and playgrounds available throughout the Huntington area.
"We're here to motivate kids to get off the couch and come to the park to play," said Kevin Brady, the executive director of the park district.
The other exciting part of the day was all the games available for kids to play, including kickball, wiffleball and relay races. What was great, many people said, is those are the simple games that kids used to play in the park all the time. It was a good reminder that Ritter Park and its green space isn't just for running and biking.
"All the things you can just pick up and do," said Brie Salmons, the operations manager at RTI who blew bubbles with kids during the event. "See what you can do with an open field?"
Carol Lynn, who arrived with her three grandchildren at the start of the event at 10 a.m., was still there at noon because they were having so much fun participating in all the games. She said the parks in the area are a great benefit to people of all ages, and a place her grandchildren always want to go.
"They couldn't wait to get here, and now they don't want to leave," Lynn said. "We love the parks, and I try to get them here as often as I can."
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- "Do you see the bars and tubes of the bridge? See the joints?" Greenbrier East High School physics and chemistry teacher Barbara McElwain asked students as she pointed to the metal beams under the New River Gorge Bridge Friday afternoon.
The 45 middle and high school students from across West Virginia who walked along the narrow catwalk directly beneath the bridge deck know all about a bridge's structure, as they make up the top 20 virtual bridge-building teams in the state.
On this sunny afternoon, the students walked about 870 feet above the New River and touched the cold metal, felt the bridge shake and heard cars whizzing by above them.
The students, between the ages of 13 and 18, will compete Saturday in the West Virginia Statewide West Point Bridge Design Contest at Marshall University.
This is the 13th year for the statewide contest. A national West Point Bridge Design contest also is held annually.
The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., provides students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering, bridges and transportation through Internet-based bridge-designing software.
Students use the computer program to design the least expensive bridge that a truck could cross without causing the bridge to collapse.
West Point released the new software -- which is updated each year -- in January and students had until March 25 to submit their designs.
Nearly 300 West Virginia students submitted designs to the national competition. During the national semifinal round on April 5, 17 of the 40 teams remaining were from West Virginia.
Nick Bartusiak, 16, of Shady Spring High School, and Aniket Zinzuwadia, 17, of Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley, won the final round for the second year in a row, which makes them the only team in the nation to win back-to-back contests.
The pair constructed a bridge that "cost" $247,537 and each took home a $10,000 scholarship and a laptop for the second straight year.
The high school juniors credited their success to teamwork and a personal interest in math and science.
"We make a good team because we complement each other. I'm more of a numbers guy and Nick is good at application," Zinzuwadia said. "When I figure out a design, he helps me implement it. We're both really interested in how science is applied to the real world and wanted to take it to another level."
Zinzuwadia said many people didn't expect the two to win because "we're from West Virginia, [and] we can't win a national contest."
Not only did they twice prove those opinions wrong, but their two-time triumph shows how important the "administrators" are, especially in this state, he said.
Those administrators -- West Virginia's teachers -- are the main reason students have been so successful in the contest, said Amanda McClellan, a coordinator of the contest.
"It takes a good teacher to take those skills you learn and use them by making it fun for your kids," McClellan said. "The number of students participating in the state has grown tremendously over the years. They're doing very well and it's because we have wonderful teachers that have stuck with this."
McElwain said she and her students have participated in each bridge-building contest for the past 13 years because it's part of her job to do so.
She hosted after-school sessions for students who wanted to work on their bridge designs.
The state pushes STEM teaching -- an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- and this design contest is all about analytical thinking, McElwain said.
Many students graduate from high school without the necessary skills to fill jobs, such as engineering skills, but programs like this competition can change that, she said.
"We have a shortage in our country for engineers and it's my job to get kids interested in engineering while they're young," McElwain said, standing in the center of the New River Gorge Bridge's catwalk. "We don't make them analyze enough, we don't prepare them to be engineers. . . . I would like to see more done in high schools to better prepare them, which means a higher level of math and science, and contests like this."
McElwain's daughter, Summer, 13, of Eastern Greenbrier Middle School, and her teammate, Kyra Lampert, 13, went to the final round of the Army-Navy Bridge Design Contest, which is exclusively for sixth- and seventh-grade students.
Lampert took more to the architect end of the design contest by drawing up each bridge sketch, while Summer McElwain drafted her teammate's concepts on the computer program.
Arch bridges -- like the one they examined Friday afternoon in person -- are the hardest to build, Lampert said.
"Sometimes, you can change the size of one bar or tube and it messes up the whole design," Summer McElwain said. "It's so cool, we get to see this bridge in person. It gives me ideas for next year's design using the computer program."
Jimmy Wriston, senior engineering adviser for the state Department of Transportation, said the West Virginia Statewide West Point Bridge Design Contest is one of the most important programs the state offers.
The Division of Highways spends its entire educational-outreach fund on the contest, he said.
Wriston has volunteered at each statewide contest by explaining to students why certain beams are necessary, how the bridge moves and more.
He said the bridge-building program is innovative and exciting for students.
"We've got to raise the bar on math and science, and this is the way to do it, to get them out of the classroom," Wriston said. "Using the computer to solve analytical problems that are in the real world -- there is no better model or example, and to come out and walk on this bridge is the real deal."
The top 20 West Virginia teams will compete in the statewide contest Saturday at Marshall University. Students will have two hours to create a virtual bridge that is the least expensive and most effective. While Bartusiak and Zinzuwadia won the national competition and the big prize, another West Virginia team could win first place Saturday for the statewide contest.
Every team member will get $100 for participating. First place takes home $400, while second place earns $300 and third gets $200.
For more information, visit wvbridgecontest.com or bridgecontest.usma.edu.
HUNTINGTON -- The Rahall Transportation Institute has been hosting events this week to celebrate National Transportation Week.
The finale includes a Kids' Day at the Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the Ritter Park fountain. There will be prizes and giveaways, along with games such as Frisbee, kickball, relay races, jump rope and wiffleball.
The River Gorge Bridge catwalk design competition also will take place Saturday in Huntington.
National Transportation Week is an opportunity to create greater awareness around and appreciation of the transportation industry. It is also a time to celebrate the transportation professionals who keep our country on the move.
This past week, officials have worked with students from Cabell County engaging in a geocaching activity at Barboursville Park and visiting Meadows and Guyandotte elementary schools.
Communities across the country are working to improve their bike and walking pathways, providing residents with a convenient way to get the exercise they need.
That is not always easy, because for most of the past century, cities have been shaped and reshaped to accommodate automobiles. Projects such as the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health in the Huntington area require identifying existing pathways and building sections that connect them.
That gives bikers and walkers the opportunity to go for miles without crossing busy streets.
The PATH effort is completing its first phase of construction with a 3.5-mile pathway along the floodwall at 3rd Street West to Vinson Road in Westmoreland, a half-mile wooded trail that connects Harveytown Park to Ritter Park and a 1.25-mile trail that stretches from the Guyandotte boat launch and along Riverside Drive to the Washington Boulevard Bridge in front of Special Metals.
This week, the project received another boost with the donation of an old railroad bridge that spans the Guyandotte River. CSX Transportation also kicked in $25,000 to help pay for the renovation.
The bridge will help connect planned trails in Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood and Guyandotte, and it will give the trail system a popular new feature. Pedestrian bridges, particularly over waterways, have become key attractions for numerous trail systems and parks.
State Sen. Bob Plymale, who is leading the trail development through the Rahall Transportation Institute, notes there may be property available near the bridge to add a park and trail for children from Guyandotte Elementary School.
The PATH project will take time -- the long-range plan envisions a 64-mile trail system. But great progress is being made this year, and the bridge donation is an exciting extra step.
Editor's Note: The Downtown Huntington Neighborhood Association President, Aaron Michael Fox, has prepared a 16 page historical and current perspective for the downtown that contains some rare photographs from the Vintage Huntington Facebook site. An adapted excerpt from the report continues below. The full 16 page PDF is available for download too.
(Portions Have Been Adapted ; Published by Permission)
The confluence of the Guyandotte and Ohio River resulted in the founding of a settlement known as Holderby’s Landing back in 1775. By 1871 the City of Huntington had been incorporated by Collis P. Huntington and Delos W. Emmons as the western terminus of the C & O Railroad.
The City had electric street cars known as trolleys before gasoline powered buses replaced them. Camden Park was built in 1903 to encourage trolley ridership. The Tri-State Transit Authority operates several “trolley” styled buses which are used on special celebrations and occasions.OLD MAIN CORRIDOR AND THE KEITH ALBEE
Simultaneously, leaders began polishing the city’s ornate two million dollar Thomas Lamb designed movie palace (the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center) and upgrading the section of Fourth Avenue that connects Downtown to Marshall University which is known as the Old Main Corridor. Block by block the goal has been new lighting, artistic and pedestrian –friendly design concepts and bicycle lanes.
Tyson Compton, President of the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the redesigns between Eighth and Tenth Streets on Fourth Avenue has helped the Keith Albee reclaim “her status as the grand dame of Downtown Huntington.”Without exception, the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center is downtown’s most famous attraction. Originally built in 1928 as the Keith-Albee Theater, and under the supervision of vaudeville tycoons B. F. Keith and Edward Albee as part of their Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit, the Keith-Albee was the second-largest theater in the United States at that time--behind the Roxy in New York City. The theater was designed by Thomas W. Lamb who designed approximately 153 theaters around the world. Unfortunately, only forty-three of these grand theaters are still open, and seventy-one have been demolished. Thankfully, “the Keith” has been undergoing a full restoration since 2009, including the receipt of a check for $300,000 from WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the House of Delegates and the State Senate which will go for roof repairs.The signature achievement in the restoration of the Keith for this year, was the restoration of the famous front sign. After standing watch over Fourth Avenue for decades and being featured in hundreds of pictures and postcards, two Hollywood movie premieres, and being struck by lightning numerous times; the sign had to be taken down in 2011. A massive "Save Our Sign" effort was organized that funded the full restoration of the sign, which was reinstalled in May of 2012.
HUNTINGTON'S HISTORIC BOONS
Huntington experienced two early boon periods --- from 1871 until the 1937 Flood (which claimed five lives, left tens of thousands homeless, and caused millions in damages) and a short lived boon during World War II. After the conflict, the city’s population started dropping after 1950 due to urban sprawl and declines in the steel and manufacturing industries.
After years of population decline , an exodus of much retail to the Huntington Mall, and the leadership vacuum that followed the Marshall University plane crash in 1971, the city started rebounding with the opening of Pullman Square in 2005, the filming of Warner Bros. “We Are Marshall” in 2006, and the shooting of ABC’s “Food Revolution” in 2010.Capping 2010, the U.S. Census reported a growth in the city’s population for the first time in six decades.
Progress has come neither easily or rapidly. A series of small steps have led to the renaissance of the downtown where many of the Art Deco and gothic buildings have been restored. Those efforts have been guided since 2006 by an organization known as “Create Huntington,” which evolved from five focus groups geared toward steering the community’s future by concentrating on Family Life, Technology, Culture & the Arts, Community Development and Tourism.
The organization empowers residents and facilitate ideas through the weekly “Chat ‘n Chew" meetings at the Frederick, the Facebook group, and its website. Create Huntington has played a positive role in the success of such projects as the “Adopt Your Block” Litter Getter program, a monthly “Cash Mob” for local business, the revitalization of Shops at Heritage Station, the Diamond Teeth Mary Blues Festival, local art at “Gallery 842”, the Petsafe Dog Park, bike lanes on Fourth Avenue, the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health , as well as farm startups, recycling projects and neighborhood associations.
Bridging a full circle positive dynamic, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams promised to “work together” with all stakeholders to crown Huntington an “exceptional city.”
“Excellence must be created by design and not by happenstance,” the former member of the Young Thundering Herd said. Downtown revitalization, residential, municipal and business efforts have come through community involvement particularly such efforts as the “30 Mile Meal” project which places an emphasis on local fresh, ripe foods from vegetables and fruit to poultry, eggs, beef, bison, pork and lamb.New business has triggered new interest in downtown residency, as the "creative" class enjoys living where the arts and culture are close by. As a result, the upper floors of historically commercial building have been renovated to accommodate residential units. The tallest structure downtown, the WV Building will be an up-scale residential high-rise. Others have been or are being renovated too, such as the aforementioned Renaissance Book Store, the Keen Jewelry next to the library, and the upper floors of the St. James (First State Bank) Building, for example.
For the last 3 years, the City of Huntington has invested considerable time and financial resources into the Old Main Corridor Project listed in the introduction. The City also unveiled a comprehensive cleanup campaign in 2013 that includes a ban on all furniture from being stored outside--except that which is designed specifically for exterior use, and a crackdown on code enforcement beginning this summer.
The looming zero-tolerance policy is part of Mayor Steve Williams' multi-pronged approach to improving the quality of life in the city through code enforcement. The city also will hire additional code enforcement oﬃcers, reinstate the Fire Department's Fire Prevention Bureau and seek the ability to issue on-the-spot citations from the West Virginia State Legislature.
The Huntington Police Department was recently recognized by the FBI for being the #1 police force in our region for the second straight year, and the city now has the lowest crime rates in 27 years. The City of Huntington also hired a graffiti abatement specialist in January of 2013, to work with the City on designing and implementing a new Graffiti Abatement System, to make sure all new graffiti is removed from the city within 24 hours of its application.
Pullman Square provided a much needed spark to Downtown Huntington, which has seen an explosion of new development since the Square opened in 2006.Unlike Downtown development of the past, we are not tearing down our historic buildings, but rather finding new ways to keep them in use.
Huntington Prime was Huntington’s first restaurant to specialize in a locally-inspired menu in 2007. The very modern and contemporary-styled restaurant makes use of both the ground and penthouse floors of the West Virginia Building, which is the tallest building on the Huntington skyline and was built in 1924.
Happily, today Heritage Station is a busy artisan retail complex, full of locally-owned shops, and home to regular public events like the annual Diamond Teeth Mary Blues Festival.
New locally-owned artisan shops at Heritage Station include: the Wild Ramp: a local Market, All About You: Hair & Nail Salon, Bottle & Wedge: Beer, Wine, and Cheese Shop, CommonGround Shoppes: uncommon, handcrafted, home and garden goods, Finds & Designs: vintage furniture and up-cycled clothing, Jameson Cigar Co., the Red Caboose: artisan gifts, River & Rail Bakery, Let’s Eat: localvore restaurant, and Sip: Huntington’s first and only wine bar.
It’s safe to say that every shop in Heritage Station has a loyal following, but it seems that the most popular of all the shops is the Wild Ramp Market. The market is a revolutionary concept in our region, that strives to create a farmer’s market in a retail environment.
The store is staffed by volunteers, which keeps prices low and maximizes profits for suppliers, who keep 90% of all sales. The market is beneficial to both consumers, who get healthy and affordable, locally-grown products; as well as suppliers who do not have to waste time standing by their products as with a traditional farmer’s market.
The market is a heated and cooled interior space and open year round with hours that are convenient for both producers and the consumers (Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm).
Finally, the Huntington area wrestled with health problems that were made famous by Chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC-TV. Before and since, concerned residents have worked to improve health and quality of life. One of the projects is the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH), a growing bicycle and pedestrian trail system which recently received a donation of an old CSX Transportation railroad bridge which connects Highlawn to Guyandotte. Sen. Bob Plymale who is executive director of the Rahall Transportation Institute indicated that a small park might be built on the west side of the bridge.
HUNTINGTON – In the 1970s, the nation's railroad industry was on the ropes, says Michael Ward, the president, chairman and CEO of rail transportation giant CSX.
The industry, he explains, was being strangled by excessive federal regulation while struggling with the interstate highway system that was enabling trucking companies to snare a larger and larger share of the nation's freight business.
What saved the railroad industry, bringing it back from the brink of extinction, Ward says, was the Staggers Act of 1980, a piece of landmark legislation that deregulated the railroads, enabling them to compete. The bill, he notes, was named for its key sponsor, the late West Virginia Congressman Harley O. Staggers Sr.
Ward's description of what he calls the "railroad renaissance" was part of his wide-ranging remarks as the keynote speaker April 30 at the annual dinner of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Pullman Plaza Hotel.
Today's CSX, he noted, operates in 23 states and two Canadian provinces. It has 32,000 employees, including 1,600 in West Virginia.
Both Ward and Chamber President Mark Bugher emphasized the historic ties between the city of Huntington and CSX, stretching back to the city's 1871 founding by rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington, who created it as the western terminus of his Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, a key corporate predecessor of CSX.
Ward is familiar with Huntington, having lived in the community in 1995-96 while working his way up the railroad's corporate ladder. During his 34-year career with CSX, he has served in key executive positions in nearly all aspects of the company's business, including sales and marketing, operations and finance. He's been CSX president, chairman and CEO since 2003.
Huntington, he noted, is an important CSX division headquarters and the home of the railroad's mammoth locomotive repair shop. The city has 550 CSX employees.
CSX long has been a generous supporter of worthy causes and institutions in the Huntington community, including the United Way of the River Cities, Marshall University and the new children's hospital project at Cabell Huntington Hospital.
Margaret Mary Layne, executive director of the Huntington Museum of Art, a member of the sold-out crowd at the dinner, noted that a CSX contribution some years back enabled the museum to establish a children's program that's still in operation and "last year served 26,000 youngsters."
While Ward was in Huntington, he used his visit to reveal CSX's latest gifts.
Ward and Randy Cheetham, the railroad's regional vice president, announced CSX is donating an old rail bridge that spans the Guyandotte River in Guyandotte to the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH) along with $25,000 to help pay for the bridge's renovation so it can accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
CSX also announced that it is making a separate $25,000 cash donation to the Rahall Transportation Institute (RTI) at Marshall University. State government's Bucks for Brains program will match the railroad's donation Ward said.
RTI is named for Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who introduced Ward at the Chamber dinner. State Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Cabell/Wayne, the director at RTI, was the master of ceremonies for the evening.
"We love the work that RTI does here because they take a very practical approach to things, not just for research's sake or to create a paper," Ward said. "They try to create things that improve safety and improve efficiency. It's one of the leading transportation institutes in the nation, and we're glad to support it."
The Chamber's annual dinner was its 122nd since 1891, when the organization was founded as the Huntington Board of Trade. The dinner was the last for Chamber President Bugher, who has announced he is retiring later this year. A search committee is working to find a successor.
VOLCANO - Mountwood Park officials brought in an expert with experience working on ATV trails for Monday night's meeting at the park.
Theresa Litteral is with the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington, a nonprofit institute for the multimodal transportation and economic development in West Virginia and 13 surrounding states of the Appalachian region, according to the website www.njrati.org.
The Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI) is funded through the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Theresa Litteral with the Rahall Transportation Institute, left, discusses the Mountwood Park Adventure ATV trails with park director Jeremy Cross, center, and board President Bob Buchanan.
Litteral said she could help the board and committee for the ATV park with the details of constructing the ATV trails. She has experience in working with the Hatfield-McCoy trails by providing training, issue identification and resolution proposals.
The organization helps to coordinate with other parties about motorized trail issues, she said.
Park officials discussed the addition of a sign containing the new park logo for the entrance of the park. "We're working on a new 4 by 8 sign to take the new logo from the website and put it on a new park sign," Cross said.
Board members approved the addition of the new sign.
Mountwood Park does not have strict rules for campers or users of the park's facilities to follow, said Cross. Cross has outlined a list of new rules and board members were asked to review the additions.
The board will discuss the rules at next month's meeting, officials said.
In other park business:
Participants used some of the park's 50 miles of trails, with about 26 miles designed for mountain biking.
Allen Conrad said he and his wife will have the concessions and rentals open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., extending the hours in the summer months and busier season.
As we navigate and explore alternative ways to move freight and position the region to be more competitive in the 21st century, it is time to expedite the planning for new ways to move freight and remain economically competitive.
The Rahall Transportation Institute (RTI) is poised once again with its recent study on the Economic Viability and Environmental Benefits of the Next Generation (NextGen) Inland Navigation Vessel to provide necessary leadership.
Past RTI research outlined the feasibility for what we see today as doubled-stacked container trains operating in our region along with the new manufacturing, warehousing and distribution opportunities coming with the 2014 opening of the Heartland Intermodal Gateway Terminal at Prichard.
A new class of energy-efficient, environmentally advanced and low operating cost vessels is poised to move river, coastal and short-sea containers in a manner more suited for the demands of the 21st century.
Work-Cat Engineering (WCE) along with RTI, unveiled a new aluminum catamaran cargo vessel on Jan. 4, 2013, in the Journal of Commerce, the leading information and marketing services provider for domestic and international containerized cargo community since 1827. Former Horizon Lines CEO Chuck Raymond expects to sign contracts and start production on the aluminum hull catamaran vessel this year.
Raymond refers to it as a “marine pickup truck” that can be built quickly using a “cookie-cutter” design at a cost much lower than the slower, single-hull steel ships in opera¬tion today. WCE is starting vessel production with a 400-foot vessel and a 295-foot vessel with capacity of up to 315 and 107 forty-foot equivalent containers respectively.
“The NextGen vessels satisfy several of the United States Department of Transportation strategic goals,” said RTI’s Chief Operating Officer Frank Betz. “In the areas of economic competitiveness, sustainability and safety, the liquid natural gas (LNG) powered vessel is the benchmark in energy savings, toxic emissions reduction and safety. Moreover, our system of highways and railroads is reaching capacity. The inland waterway system has excess capacity and should be developed to help provide a cost-effective supplement to building more road and rail¬road infrastructure. The development of a marine highway system for cargo shipments would contribute greatly to mitigate the increasing constraints of the current cargo transportation system while satisfying another USDOT strategic goal: the state-ofgood-repair of the current highway system.” Other benefits of enhancing the current cargo transportation system to include waterway transportation are enhancing fuel efficiency, as well as reduced highway spills, accidents and noise. A recent transportation institute estimate found that traffic congestion costs Americans $200 billion dollars, 4.2 billion hours in traffic and 2.9 billion gallons of fuel each year compounded with traffic projected to quadruple nationwide between 2009 and 2040. The issue of increased traffic and stagnant growth in lane-miles is expected to continue in the coming years.
Waterborne shipping will help alleviate these difficulties in heavily congested areas by employing a transportation mode that is under-utilized.
None of these benefits would be realized without water shipment operating in an affordable and dependable way. Operational efficiency at ports is a critical part of coastal shipping in terms of both time and cost. The original diversion from shipping to truck occurred, because waterway shipping was seen as slow, unreliable and expensive. By nature, high water resistance makes speed increases for vessels more costly than for trucks or rail. Technology improvements made by WCE on designs of the engine, hull and propulsion system will help reduce water resistance, make the vessels faster and more fuel efficient to buoy the success of waterway shipping.
The reality of our nation’s fiscal and economic challenges to compete globally in the 21st century is causing both public and private transportation professionals to consider alternative options for moving freight. Current users of the inland navigation system fully understand the value that a marine highway system would provide for trans¬porting their respective commodities. Yet, a comprehensive approach is needed to implement and demonstrate the benefits of the 21st century supply chain to our nations inland waterways. Alternative solutions such as the NextGen catamaran cargo vessels are poised to provide economic viability and environmental benefits of the next generation of cargo shipments.
Our region once again is a pioneer in developing not only new strategic transportation corridors such as the Heartland Corridor but new maritime vessels that could initiate more transportation opportunities nationally and internationally.
Robert H. Plymale is CEO and director of the Rahall Transportation Institute. Plymale leads a team of business, academic and research professionals working to enhance safety and economic development opportunities through trans¬por tation.View PDF