Cumberland Times-News

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May 6, 2013

Keyser residents want traffic light

KEYSER, W.Va. — More than 300 residents have signed a petition requesting that the West Virginia Division of Highways install a traffic control signal at the intersection of U.S. Route 220 and Stoney Run Road in Keyser.

“It is a huge traffic issue and it’s dangerous,” said Becky Viers, who started the petition in February.

But the intersection, which is south of town across from Pizza Hut, does not meet criteria for a traffic signal, said Lee Thorne, district manager/engineer for the Division of Highways’ District 5. In order for a signal to be deemed relevant, it must meet one or more criteria in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Those warrants include peak hour traffic count, crash experience, roadway network and eight- and four-hour vehicle traffic volume.

 Viers said there have been three accidents at the intersection in the past month.

“There aren’t very many accidents at the intersection,” said Thorne, who noted the number of accidents were compared to a statewide average. “That isn’t to say there can’t be accidents.”

Thorne said installing a traffic light could lead to more accidents.

“Traffic lights aren’t always the best solution to solve a traffic problem,” said Thorne. “A traffic light can increase the number of accidents.”

If a traffic light was installed it could change the types of accidents that occur, Thorne said. For example, accidents could change from t-bone and sideswipe type accidents to rear-end type accidents, said Thorne.

B&B Concrete Inc. is located on Stoney Run and heavy loaded trucks have trouble gearing up making a right turn to go south on U.S. Route 220, according to Delegate Gary Howell, who is of member the Legislature’s House Committee on Roads and Transportation. The trucks tend to make a right and go south to find a place to turn around so they can go north, said Howell.

“It creates a problem somewhere else,” said Howell, who noted that there were safety benefits to installing a traffic light. “It could provide breaks in traffic, which would be a bigger safety benefit.”

A peak-hour traffic count has been conducted on the Stoney Run intersection in the last few years and it didn’t meet criteria for a signal, Thorne said. Typically, peak hour counts don’t change unless a large business goes in nearby, he said.

“Traffic has gotten worse since the high school has moved and since businesses are moving south (of town),” said Viers.

Howell and Thorne disagree on the traffic count numbers.

“DOH is saying that the traffic count is not there and that the numbers don’t qualify for a traffic light. To me, it looks like it does qualify,” said Howell, who referenced the West Virginia Department of Transportation traffic counts for 2011 in Mineral County.

Howell said he had been working to address the problems with the intersection for the past two years. He presented the petition and it was referred to the Roads and Transportation Committee but it was never addressed.

Howell indicated that he was disappointed that the petition didn’t come before the committee.

“The matter kept escalating but it fell through the cracks,” said Howell. “It should have come to the committee. Nothing happened and it should of.”

Howell hopes the petition can be addressed during a special session of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways to be held this summer.

Traffic does get backed up on Stoney Run, according to Thorne.  

“People in a rural area aren’t use to stopping and waiting at stop signs,” said Thorne. “As an area grows like ours, it’s an adjustment that people aren’t use to making.”

Viers, who lives on Stoney Run, said she waited for eight minutes at the intersection before she was able to turn left and travel south to Keyser.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the law governing all traffic control devices and non-compliance ultimately can result in loss of federal-aid funds as well as significant increase in tort liability, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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