WELLSBURG - City officials, local business owners and representatives of the West Virginia Division of Highways appear to have reached a compromise on a controversial plan to remove the median on state Route 2 between 12th and 27th streets.
State highway officials said replacing the median with a two-way turn lane would reduce rear-end collisions caused by drivers failing to stop behind others attempting to turn from the highway's center north- and southbound lanes.
According to a report from the state Division of Highways, 55 crashes occurred in the area over a three-year period. Of them, 29 percent were rear-end collisions and 13 percent involved vehicles making left turns against opposing traffic.
But adding the turn lane would require either eliminating parking on both sides of the highway or on the east side only, a move opposed by several business owners.
Council on Feb. 8 unanimously agreed to recommend to the state Division of Highways to instead replace the left northbound lane with a turn lane, a move that wouldn't affect parking on either side.
Jay Wallace, an engineer with the Division of Highways, said he would present the scenario to officials in Charleston.
Another option considered by the state Division of Highways was creating single lanes for northbound and southbound traffic divided by a center turn lane.
Paul T. Billiard and Howard Armstrong, who own businesses along the east side of state Route 2, said the parking lane creates a buffer between vehicles backing out of their parking lots and into the highway.
Billiard said drivers tend to accelerate in the area, where the highway expands from two to four lanes. Armstrong said removing the parking lane is likely to result in more accidents caused by vehicles backing into the busy highway.
Attorney Frank Cuomo, whose office is on the west side of state Route 2, said eliminating parking there leaves delivery trucks and disabled vehicles nowhere to pull over.
Matt Allietta, whose business is on the west side, said the parking lane is "crucial" to his business.
Alan Huffman, who owns a business on the east side, voiced support for the turn lane, saying he's seen many drivers enter his parking lot and others to make U-turns.
Armstrong thanked state highway officials for seeking input from council, residents and business owners, noting Route 2 is a state highway over which it has control.
State highway officials had proposed replacing the turn lane with a median in 1999, but the idea was opposed by several business owners and residents.
Wallace said the proposal was revisited because a business owner had asked for the median to be cut near his establishment. He and other highway officials are concerned such cuts only increase the risk for an accident.
Lloyd Adams, a Wellsburg native and maintenance engineer with the state Division of Highways, told council, "A center turn lane will be far, far safer than what you have now."
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com.)