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Cars on Route 33 are stopped at the new traffic signal at the intersection with Childer's Run Road. (Monica Zalaznik / My Buckhannon)

Police urge motorists to be aware of new stop lights, lowered speed limit at dangerous Route 33 intersections

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon-Upshur law enforcement officials are urging the community to be aware of the new traffic lights and lowered speed limits on Route 33 at the intersections with Childers Run Road and Kesling Mill Road.

My Buckhannon reached out to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office and the Buckhannon Police Department after a two-vehicle wreck occurred at the Kesling Mill intersection on Tuesday. Both drivers in that accident are in stable condition.

Upshur County Sheriff Mike Coffman said the Kesling Mill intersection has been the site of collisions for a long time.

“You have that hill crest, and if you’re going 65 or so at the intersection and people were trying to make it clear across, it caused some wrecks,” Coffman said. “When we had wrecks there, people would say that they stopped and looked, but they didn’t see anybody coming.”

Now that the lights have been installed, Coffman said his office has received complaints about drivers running through the red light.

“It’s an ongoing complaint and something that we’re going to be doing some targeted enforcement at the lights,” Coffman said. “We are actually working with Highway Safety now to get additional funding for overtime for officers, to dedicate to the stoplights on 33. They also lowered the speed limit around the stoplights to 55 mph, and I think that also needs additional enforcement.”

Coffman said people have not adjusted to the new lights yet, and some may not even be aware they are functioning now.

“People aren’t aware that the speed limit has dropped, people aren’t aware the lights are functioning, and then I think people are trying to beat the lights,” Coffman said. “We’re going to be doing some targeted enforcement in the very near future.”

The sheriff anticipates there could be more issues at the lights in the future.

“There will be some obstacles,” Coffman said. “I think we’re going to have trouble in the wintertime, particularly in the westbound lane, with bigger trucks stopping on the hill when the road conditions are bad.”

He is also concerned about potential rear-end collisions.

“I worry a little bit about traveling eastbound, whenever you get dropped over the hill, toward the light, that traffic could be backed up, and you’re going 60 or 50, and people may not be paying a lot of attention,” Coffman said. “Are they going to be able to stop before there’s some rear-end collisions? It’s way too early to tell what effect these lights will have.”

Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory said there was also a minor vehicle collision at the intersection of Childers Run on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t too bad as far as damage or injuries,” Gregory said. “It was mostly property damage to the vehicles involved.”

He said this was the only wreck at the Childers Run intersection since the lights were activated.

“I know there are warning signals that the DOH erected as you approach those intersections to let people know there’s a light there now,” Gregory said. “We’ve been directing our officers to do some extra patrols of that area, more or less to educate violators that there is a new traffic pattern.”

Gregory said none of his officers have reported anyone running the red light at the Childers Run intersection so far.

“I’ve been out myself and monitored it on a couple of different occasions and haven’t seen anything,” Gregory said. “During the Kesling Mill wreck yesterday, I made a point to go and monitor the Childers Run intersection, making sure everybody was stopping, and they were.”

Before the stoplights were installed, several wrecks occurred when people were trying to cross both lanes, the chief said.

“In most of the cases I saw, the really bad accidents were when people tried to cross both lanes of Route 33 on Childers Run, and it would generally result in a T-bone type collision,” Gregory said. “I’ve seen at least a couple of different fatalities that have resulted from that type of collision at that location.”

Gregory said he can see why people are concerned about the new traffic pattern.

“You have something one way for years and years and years, and people are used to that, and suddenly you change it,” Gregory said. “I think the concern, and rightfully so, is that it’s going to create a hazard. The proper way to address that is continued education, and that’s everything from us monitoring it, to word of mouth, getting out press coverage, talking about the fact there is a change in the traffic pattern.”

He asked the public to use caution when traveling near the new lights.

“Be aware that the lights are there, and as you approach these intersections, be prepared to stop,” Gregory said. “I’ve taught my children as they’ve learned to drive that it’s always a good rule of thumb when you’re stopped at a traffic signal, especially on a four-lane highway, when it turns green, never assume that the route is clear. Always check, make sure and proceed with caution. I think that’s the best rule of thumb for any motorist.”

Jennifer J. Dooley with the WVDOT Public Relations Division said both sets of lights were activated on April 11.

“There is additional construction planned in the area that is unrelated to the traffic lights,” she said. “Reconstruction of the pavement surface is planned from Industrial Park Road through both intersections.”

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