Two-way traffic has been an on-going and sometimes controversial issue in downtown Wheeling, but it seems a final decision is coming soon.
Mayor Glenn Elliott told 7News that City Council asked the Division of Highways to consider the project more than a year ago and he was hoping for an answer when he and City Manager Robert Herron met with officials Thursday in Charleston.
“We don’t have an answer yet, but I think we know where we are,” Mayor Elliott explained. “What the DOH said is they don’t really have any issues with the policy of two way traffic, but they’re concerned that there seems to be a big lack of consensus here in the community in terms of what we want as a community. A lot of folks like it as is. Some like what’s called enhanced one way. Some other folks like two way.”
Mayor Elliott plans to meet with property owners on Main and Market Streets early next week to try and come to an agreement about two-way traffic.
“A lot them I know well and I’ve talked to them already about their concerns, but getting them all in one room and just sort of understanding what their main fears are,” he continued. “Let me make the case for two-way again.”
The two-way traffic plan promises benefits like more visibility for downtown businesses, but many have said they don’t want it.
Mayor Elliott also explains that it would benefit pedestrian safety.
If the City and business owners can’t come to an agreement, Mayor Elliott doesn’t want two-way traffic to interfere with the downtown streetscape project.
“What I told DOH is if there’s no consensus for two-way, I’m going to withdraw the request for it so this project doesn’t get held up in any way, shape or form,” he added.
At Thursday’s meeting, the DOH agreed to be a co-applicant on a federal build grant the city has submitted for the streetscape project, because the cost has gone from $10 million to $19 million, creating a funding gap.
“If we can’t get the federal grant, we’re going to have to look at ways in the state or city budgets to close that gap a little bit to get the downtown project done,” Mayor Elliott explained. “It’s not just streets. It’s sidewalks. It’s new trees. It’s new signalization, crosswalks that look really fancy.”
The streetscape project is now on a deadline.
Mayor Elliott says the design consultants and engineers need to know which way traffic will be flowing by the end of the month, so they can finalize the plans.
“We don’t want to delay the project,” he emphasized. “At the end of the day our number one goal is getting the streetscape project started in 2019 so it can be completed by the end of the year.”