Public voices concerns over possible changes to downtown traffic

Community

The results of the Downtown Wheeling Mobility and Streetscape Study were presented at a public meeting on Thursday, and many residents had similar concerns and opinions. 

“I think it’s going to slow traffic and they’re going to regret it once they do it,” said Wheeling resident Linda Sandiford about proposed changes to downtown traffic. 

That study, conducted collaboratively with the City of Wheeling, West Virginia Department of Transportation and Belomar Regional Council, looked at the possibility of changing traffic to two-ways on Main Street and Market Street.

The results concluded that it’s absolutely a viable alternative for Wheeling, but even after hearing the details many residents still don’t agree. 

Benefits presented included slowing vehicle speeds and giving more visual exposure to downtown buildings and businesses. 

“Slower traffic moving in two directions gives you better views of store fronts, better views of building fronts, puts more eyes on the sidewalks and just kinda makes the whole downtown a little more lively than traffic just buzzing through in one direction with kind tunnel vision,” said study manager Steve Thieken with Burgess & Niple. 

Some believe it would also make Wheeling better for out of town traffic. 

“It makes it easier for visitors to navigate the city,” said Jake Dougherty, the Executive Director of Wheeling Heritage who also lives and works downtown. “Most cities and streets are two ways so it’s not uncommon to look outside on Main Street and watch people who are coming to downtown driving the wrong way on Main or Market Street.” 

Some people who attended the meeting came in with doubts, but in the end see the benefits of two-way traffic. 

“These engineers and designers don’t do things by accident,” said business owner Dean Connors. “They do things on purpose. They do things for a reason. Slowing down traffic, changing the perspective of the drivers in the city is very positive.” 

The possibility of delays evoked the largest response. 

While they are minimal, some traffic lights will have several seconds more delays. There would also be a delay on Main and market Streets when a lane is blocked by a delivery, emergency vehicle or construction. 

Residents said they are concerned that traffic can’t move around the obstruction safely without illegally crossing the center line. 

“Of course it’s not going to effect the person that lives in downtown Wheeling,” said Sandiford.”He can walk to a shop, but those of us who need to drive though it to get to South Wheeling, to get to Lowes, to get to Nailers ‘games it seems that the engineers did not take into consideration prime time.” 

After hearing these comments, the City says it has work to do. 

“It’s not a perfect solution. It’s not a terrible solution,” said Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. “There are some benefits and there are some disadvantages and I think it’s incumbent on us to take all the comments we got, to study this report that we’re going to get a final report here soon and study what’s best for all of downtown development.”

The study also looked at an enhanced one-way scenario, which will be presented to the city as well. 

Mayor Elliott said the city has to make a decision within the next few months, because if the two-way traffic changes are implemented, they would coincide with a downtown streetscape project to replace sidewalks and street surfaces. 

That project is already in the design phase. 

Comments or questions can still be submitted by the public until May 18th and they will be taken into consideration for the final report. 

They can be mailed to Stephen Thieken, Consultant Project Manager, Burgess & Niple, Inc. at 4424 Emerson Avenue Parkersburg, WV 26104. 

You can also call 304-485-8541 ext. 1356 or e-mail steve.thieken@burgessnple.com. 

Visit the Belomar Regional Council website at www.belomar.org for more project information and updates. 

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