Possible traffic changes concern Wheeling first responders

Community

In a situation where seconds matter, possible changes to the traffic pattern in downtown Wheeling are concerning first responders.

The traffic study predicts that normal traffic flow on Main and Market Streets will be 10 to 15 seconds slower.

For Wheeling Police and Wheeling Firemen, those added seconds make a big difference.

The Wheeling Fire department can get through downtown in 30 seconds.

“Fire multiplies three fold every minute so that 30 seconds, is a big, big deal,” said WFD Chief Larry Helms.

Chief Helms said half of their 4,000 EMS calls per year are dispatched to the North Wheeling fire station.

Everyday, that station uses Main Street to save those lives.

That’s also where the Chief thinks the most congestion will be.

“Right now when we have events downtown, that’s where we see our biggest problems with trying to get through downtown, and with Main and Market being one-way, that kind of gives us the ability to keep flowing,” said Chief Helms.

Chief Shawn Schwertfeger does think that two-way would slow cars down, but as far as pedestrian safety is concerned, currently he says downtown is safe. In the last five years, there have only been three pedestrian involved accidents.

“My biggest concern was the 10th St. area and the potential for backup onto the interstate,” said Chief Schwertfeger.

Another concern: increased fender benders.

“One lane would be completely blocked, you won’t be able to continue to flow the south direction and that will cause people to be bucking traffic around whatever the congestion is,” said Chief Helms.

Chief Schwertfeger said right now, the design of the road makes managing outbound traffic after festivals and events easy.

“It’s going to require some additional work and road closures in order to get traffic out of that area from 14th and Water streets and so forth from the intermodal,” said Chief Shwertfeger.

Both Chiefs said they are grateful to be included in the conversation with the city, and will be ready for anything.

“Whatever happens, we’ll have the plan for it,” said Chief Helms.

Both Chiefs said they are in favor of the enhanced one-way traffic plan.

Stay with 7News for updates on the next steps.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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