Public Works Director Jerry Arnold weighs in on the Trader's Alley debate at Thursday's Consolidated Public Works Board meeting.

Traders Alley debate spurs city officials to study all alleys in the downtown Buckhannon area

BUCKHANNON – The question of whether Traders Alley should be designated a one-way or two-way street has spurred city officials to undertake a comprehensive study of all potentially problematic alley intersections in downtown Buckhannon.

In fact, Traders Alley is one roadway the City of Buckhannon’s Consolidated Public Works Board has weighed in on more than twice.

Most recently, at its Thursday, June 27 meeting, CPWB voted 3-2 to designate a small section of Traders Alley a one-way road; that section stretches from a building owned by architect Bryson VanNostrand in which the Lascaux MicroTheater and 3/4 Café is housed. At its May 23 meeting, the board made the same decision. However, that decision was altered from an initial decision to make the section of Traders Alley from Milkman Lane to Main Street one way.

City officials want to make the road one way to protect pedestrian safety, saying visibility is limited when a person in a vehicle is driving up the alley and attempting to make a left or right turn onto Main Street.

VanNostrand had asked for the board’s decision at the May 23 meeting to be reconsidered, meaning Traders Alley would remain a two-way road entirely.

At Thursday’s meeting, mayor David McCauley said city officials have been considering solutions to keep the alley a two-way road.

“We’ve had Rob Barbor put in two big planters, the big, ginormous bowls that are about three feet wide,” McCauley said. “They are at the top on each side of Traders Alley so pedestrians that might otherwise have been hugging the wall coming down Traders Alley have step out that three, four feet.

“So, in addition to that, there’s some other things that we can do. We can create signage on both sides of the Traders Alley arch that would identify to drivers that this is pedestrian crossing.”

McCauley asked Director of Public Works Jerry Arnold to explain other ideas to caution both pedestrians and drivers of limited visibility in the area.

“Particularly the alleys between Kanawha (Street) and Locust (Street) and Locust and Spring Street, those alleys have to exit across the sidewalk,” Arnold said. “I’ve put together [a plan] that was based on something people have observed in the larger cities, where the parking garages have to exit out on sidewalks. They have audible and visual alarms, that will warn pedestrians that there is a car exiting.”

Arnold said he put together a demo of the device with components from their shop from a backup alarm and a caution light to give the board an idea how one of these devices would work.

“All I would suggest is the ones that they use for parking garages is simply a human voice that says, ‘caution vehicle entering sidewalk.’” Arnold said.

He said if there are going to be changes on any of the alleys, they should evaluate all the alleys, especially the alleys that exit on a sidewalk and if they do decide to utilize devices, there would be about eight locations.

CPWB member Pam Bucklew said regardless of the new device, she still thought the board’s previous decision was the right one.

“I still agree with what we decided initially. I went down there myself two times, drove through at various speeds, and there is no way [it’s safe]. If a person’s coming through there with a baby carriage and they have a child, they are going to get hit,” Bucklew said. “I don’t care if you’re going five miles an hour, and I read this letter and he had an experienced person come and check it out and his recommendation was to keep it one way.”

Bucklew was referring to a report written by Ronald W. Eck with the W.Va. Local Technical Assistance Program. In his report, he said he walked Traders Alley June 10 and determined he agreed with the decision to make it a one-way road. Board member Nancy Shobe, who was called in to attend the meeting, said the report helped her make her decision on the road.

“That really speaks volumes to me that we have an engineer saying that the decision the board made at the last meeting was the correct decision,” Shobe said. “I have a real problem with not going ahead and putting up the sign right now.”

Board member CJ Rylands said he still didn’t like the idea of making Traders Alley one way.

“I would thank this gentleman for offering his opinion, but our downtown was on a human scale, not a vehicular scale and when we let traffic engineers design our community, you could look at examples of Weston or Clarksburg or Fairmont who have lots of one ways that may be able to move more cars through their town faster, but it’s not producing the kind of downtown that they want,” Rylands said. “We have made other choices and although he is an expert, I think we can take other steps that are proactive and address the situation.”

Rylands said he was against making changes on just one alley and would prefer to come up with a comprehensive plan for all the alleys. Board member Mark Waldo said he agreed with Bucklew and Shobe.

“I agree with Pam and Nancy. I think in the short term that we should make it one-way, and if we want to evaluate other scenarios where we can make it safe, and make it two-way I’d be happy to revisit that, but in the short term I favor making it one-way,” Waldo said.

Shobe made a motion to keep the alley one-way while other alternatives – as well as the alleys in the downtown area – are evaluated. The vote was 3-2 with Waldo, Shobe and Bucklew voting in favor and Rylands and McCauley voting opposed to keeping the section of Traders Alley one-way.

“I’m opposed only because I’d like to see us continue to fast track this comprehensive plan of all the alleys, so that we are addressing things in a uniform comprehensive way, which we will do,” McCauley said.

In other Consolidated Public Works Board news:

  • The board awarded the Gateway West Phase II materials testing services bid to Ascent Consulting and Engineering, which is based out of Clarksburg, and their bid price was $9,400. The other two bids were from the Thrasher Group with a bid of $15,000 and CTL Engineering with a bid of $25,000.
  • The board voted to make the speed limit 15 mph from Meade Street to Camden Avenue north and south after a request was made by Upshur County Board of Education member Katie Loudin to install a school zone sign in front of the Child Development Center on Camden Avenue.

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