BUCKHANNON – Type the phrases “Kesling Mill,” “Childers Run” and “vehicle” into an internet search engine, and the results are likely to yield article after article by local media outlets reporting on “another wreck,” “yet another crash,” “crashes continue” and other similarly titled stories.
The notoriously dangerous intersections – those of U.S. Route 33 and Kesling Mill Road and Route 33 and Childers Run Road – have tragically been the scenes of numerous vehicle wrecks, some of which have been fatal. In fact, at least three people have died from vehicle collisions since April 2019 and even more in years prior at the intersections, which require cars to cross four lanes of high-speed traffic with limited visibility.
So, it was welcome news to local government officials to learn this week that the DOH is planning to undertake two projects along the treacherous stretch of road.
WVDOH District VII Engineer Brian Cooper on Monday sent an email to Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace informing her that after concluding a traffic safety study, the DOH plans to install traffic signals at Route 33’s intersection with Kesling Mill and Childers Run roads and will also refurbish and update the traffic signal at Route 33’s intersection with Brushy Fork Road.
“After reviewing the results of the safety study, I am pleased to inform you that the WVDOH has programmed two projects to help improve safety along US 33 in Upshur County,” Cooper wrote. “One project includes renovation and upgrading of the traffic signal located at the intersection of US 33 and Brushy Fork Road. The other project will install new traffic signals on US 33 at the intersection of Childers Run Road and also at the intersection of Kesling Mill Road.”
Cooper’s email noted that the engineering and design work for both projects is slated to be completed this fall and construction could begin in spring of 2022.
Local government officials have long requested that the state implement new safety measures at the deadly intersections.
In June 2015, the Upshur County Commission sent a letter to the DOH requesting that a stoplight be installed at the Kesling Mill intersection after two then-elementary school students, Cloey Warner and Emily Jozwick, sought assistance from the commission when their classmate’s grandfather died from injuries suffered in a wreck there following a school function.
In their petition, the students noted that “too many lives have been lost” at the Kesling Mill intersection.
In April 2019, a wreck at the intersection of Childers Run Road killed two people – Harry Matthew Hymes II, 82, and Sarah Downes, 65, both of Buckhannon. That spurred Buckhannon City Council to request that the DOH conduct a traffic study along the stretch of highway from the Brushy Fork intersection to the Kesling Mill intersection.
Hymes was the city’s assistant attorney and former longtime municipal court judge. He and his passenger, Downes, had been returning from a Buckhannon Lions Club meeting when the two passed away following a motor vehicle accident involving a T-bone-type collision with a Freightliner tractor trailer at the Childers Run Road intersection. By the end of June, another woman, 27-year-old Kendra Neal, died following a fatal crash at the Kesling Mill intersection when the vehicle she was traveling in attempted to cross Route 33 to the Old Elkins Road.
Wallace said she routinely checks in with the DOH regarding the results of the traffic study and was glad to discover the safety-enhancing projects will get underway this fall. Commission president Kristie Tenney said the commission is looking forward to seeing the measures come to fruition.
“The commission is eager to see the completion of these projects to enhance the safety of Upshur County residents and our visitors,” Tenney said in a statement on behalf of the commission. “We would especially like to thank former Union Elementary School students, Cloey Warner and Emily Jozwick, who originally brought this to the attention of the commission and city council after the tragic passing of classmates’ grandparents at the Kesling Mill intersection after attending a school event.”
On Tuesday, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner echoed those sentiments.
“From the perspective of the city, we’re happy the study is finally complete,” Skinner wrote in an email. “I, like many in our community, sincerely hope the proposed enhancements at each intersection prove to be a solution to frequency of accidents.”
“Each intersection along Corridor H in the Buckhannon area poses its own challenge,” he added. “We’ve seen a significant amount of development along the highway since it was constructed. Consequently, the more vehicles traveling on the road, the more potential accidents we could see. Too many lives have been taken, and too many serious injuries have occurred, particularly in accidents at both the Kesling Mill and Childers Run intersections. Hopefully the installation of stop lights will drastically reduce the number of wrecks, injuries, and fatalities.”