BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Works Board voted to keep North Kanawha Street a two-way street after previously considering making it a one-way road.
The CPWB took up two previously discussed traffic items during their Jan. 26 meeting. The board contemplated changing North Kanawha Street into a one-way street during their Dec. 7 meeting. The change was brought up because the street can potentially be too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other after parking was added to the other side of the street. However, the item was tabled because the board wanted to ask local business owners their opinions on the potential change.
City Council member CJ Rylands attended the meeting to express his opinion on the potential change.
“I want to strongly speak out against turning streets into one way,” Rylands said. “I think the last thing you want to do is let traffic engineers design your city because their sole purpose is to flush as many cars through as fast as you can, which is the opposite intention of a walkable, friendly city.”
“On one-way streets, people tend to drive a little faster, the businesses have less exposure, but to me, I think the biggest thing is how onerous it is for tourists or people who have never been here before and when they’re confronted with one-way streets, it’s a challenge,” he added. “If you can go both ways, you can always meander and figure out a way around.”
Rylands said he has never personally been unable to pass another vehicle on that specific street, but it is a regular occurrence on roads across the county.
“I’ve never had any issue, but think about all the country roads in West Virginia where this does happen; there is an understanding that you don’t go flying by when you come to a car. You slow down and you pull to the side and pass,” Rylands said. “It happens all over this county and state, and it’s something that works.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner said he agreed with Rylands, and he has observed the street for the last month.
“I’ve walked down there, and I’ve driven it a few times,” Skinner said. “I think people have gotten used to it a little bit, and there are several places where you can pull in or you can pull over to let a car by because the parking is not consistent like it is on Main Street where all parts of Main Street have parking. You have some inlets where you can pull in and let a car go by if you are nervous about it and then go on. They can’t fly by, but I don’t really want them flying through downtown anyway.”
Skinner said he also does not want to consider removing the parking on either side of the street because it is being used on a regular basis. City Streets Superintendent Brad Hawkins said they plan to do some painting in that area and hopefully once the parking areas are fully designated, people may have more space to drive. The board voted unanimously to keep the street a two-way road.
The board also decided to designate Apothecary Way a two-way street, eliminating the turning lane and making it a traditional two-way street with slashes near the CVS building. The board talked about Apothecary Way during the same Dec. 7 meeting, where Skinner said people are confused by the three-lane street.
“The issue we’re having is people aren’t observing the turning lanes properly – they’re either blocking the street, or they’re trying to turn into the CVS pharmacy and they’re blocking the street completely, or they’re not paying attention to the lanes and they’re going right up against the building and turning in, which is technically in the lane that’s supposed to go out to Main Street,” Skinner said.
The board considered making it a one-way street but decided to try a simpler approach first.
“Let’s try a two-way on Apothecary, eliminating the turning lane and just having it as a traditional two-way street with slashes nearest the building. If that doesn’t work, then we can revisit the one way from Main to Franklin,” Skinner said. “Maybe that will give us time if we want to have some plans drawn up to where we can be sure that a one-way on the eastern side would work and would be enough room, then we can look at that.”
Skinner also said the West Virginia State Division of Highways has received the city’s request to remove the ‘No turn on red’ sign from the stoplight pole at the intersection of West Main and South Locust streets.
“I did have a conversation with Ben Claypool about the signage, and he did say it seemed to be a reasonable request and that they would work on getting it taken down for us,” Skinner said.