The Weston Planning Commission held a public meeting on Thursday, July 27, at the Weston Fire Department to discuss the merits of transitioning Weston’s streets back to two-way traffic.
The meeting was facilitated by Jesse Richardson from West Virginia University College of Law. Mayor Julia Spelsberg indicated that Richardson had been heavily involved in the development of Weston’s comprehensive plan in 2014.
The meeting was a result of implementation of that plan, which called for a public meeting to discuss the idea.
Richardson opened the meeting by asking for views about the proposed change.
Jack Gaston, a former businessman and current property owner spoke up mentioning his family’s long history in the city, and recalling a time when parking was hard to find on Main Avenue during weekends due to the volume of business.
“I don’t see a big advantage,”said Larry Bennett, a business owner. “The money could probably be used better to improve the appearance and lighting [on Main Avenue] and things of that nature.”
Bennett was the first of many individuals to express concern over the cost noting that he hadn’t seen a cost for the project.
Richardson indicated that cost seemed to be, “The elephant in the room,” and went on to suggest that the group “cut to the chase,” and get the number from the representatives from the Division of Highways (DOH) in Charleston.
Matt Skiles, the representative from the DOH Traffic Engineering Division said they don’t have a figure available right now, but was willing to provide a list of actions that would need to be taken to make the conversion.
Those items included new signals, supports, signs, and road markings and noted that those would represent a, “Fairly significant cost.”
Skiles went on to mention that any changes to intersections would be required to include upgrades to make sure those intersections comply with the current version of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The DOH representatives present during the approximately 80 minute meeting often cited the lack of traffic data and the need for further study.
When asked by Richardson if the DOH would be willing to make the conversion to two-way streets without a comprehensive traffic study DOH District 7 engineer Brian Cooper went as far as to say that the state would be, “Very reluctant to do so.”
Cooper added that in 2002 such a study would have cost $100,000 and noted that it would probably be more now.
Weston Financial Manager Dodie Arbogast noted that she felt that the project represented a poor return on investment, and that the money would be best spent elsewhere.
Richardson asked if there were suggestions for smaller steps that could be taken to revitalize the downtown area of Weston. There were a variety of responses including beautification efforts, sidewalk repair, and upgraded lighting.
“One of the main reasons for having this meeting was to find out the cost for returning the streets to two-way,” Spelsberg said. “Obviously, the city has much more pressing issues on roadways than spending $100,000 on a study so that is a no-brainer. We can’t spend that money.” Spelsberg said in a statement. She went on to say, “”It was a very informative meeting and it was great to have WVU facilitating and all of the DOH and other interested parties there to discuss. We will never find the answers unless we talk to the right people.”