DOH temporarily restricts right-hand turns at Lewisburg intersection, officials say permanent solution is forthcoming

By Matthew Young, RealWV

LEWISBURG, W.Va. – It was little more than three weeks ago when Bella the Corner Gourmet was struck, for the eighth time this year, by a turning commercial vehicle. On Tuesday – and in a fashion which has become as anticipated as rain on a cloudy day – the ticker clicked for the ninth time.

In a Wednesday social media post, representatives from Bella asked that patrons, “Please continue to contact our city, state, and federal representatives until this corner can be a safe space for our community.”

With incidents now occurring on March 30, April 4, April 18, May 26, July 8, July 14, July 19, July 25, and Aug. 15, Bella is averaging a vehicle impact every 15.44 days. And while the damage thus far has been limited to property, area residents and business owners are left wondering how long that particular streak of luck will last. 

A historical-fixture of downtown Lewisburg, the building which Bella occupies is located on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets – otherwise known as US Routes 60W, and 219N. This is an intersection which, according to Del. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, is “not designed to accommodate commercial motor vehicle traffic making turns in any direction.”

Although building-impacts have occurred sporadically over the years, the uptick of such incidents since March has, for many residents, sounded the proverbial alarm. 

“I think two things contribute to this,” Honaker told RealWV on Wednesday, “I think it’s the combination of that intersection just not being conducive to commercial motor vehicles, and obviously there’s a skill-issue on the part of some drivers.”

While the cause of these repeated accidents may be easy to identify, the solution has remained far more elusive. The increase of occurrences has led to the escalation of frustration and finger pointing, and the court of public opinion seems well on its way to indicting Lewisburg city officials. 

To a large degree, however, the hands of city officials are tied in this matter. Both Routes 60 and 219 are state roads, and therefore fall within the purview of the W.Va. Division of Highways (DOH). Something as simple as “putting up a sign to restrict right-hand turns” – as several social media comments suggest – requires state-level approval. 

“If we could sit down with companies that are delivering to the community and ask, ‘What size vehicles are you delivering with, and exactly where do these vehicles need to go?’ then we can come up with a plan,” Honaker said. “But asking the Department of Highways or the City of Lewisburg to fix that intersection without all that information is unfair to the City, and it’s unfair to the Department of Highways.”

On July 19, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was contacted, and his assistance in finding a resolution was requested. On Wednesday, representatives from Manchin’s office advised RealWV that they have been actively engaged with the DOH since that time, and that DOH confirms  “they are working on it.”

That confirmation proved accurate. At just after 6 p.m. Wednesday, WVVA’s Kassidy Brown reported that the DOH “will be temporarily restricting right-hand turns” at the Lewisburg intersection of routes 60 and 219. However, Brown’s report included the DOH’s belief that “no good alternative route for trucks and large vehicles traveling through Lewisburg” currently exists. 

The DOH advised that further study of possible solutions is ongoing, and Honaker advised that both he and Sen. Vince Deeds, R-Greenbrier, will be joining the search for that solution.

“We’re going to sit down with the DOH, as well as the City of Lewisburg, and hammer out a way to get this situation resolved,” Honaker said. “There is a plan that we’re working on, and we just have to hammer out the details of it. This is a serious problem, and we’re actively trying to get the plan finalized so that the DOH can act sooner rather than later to get an alternate commercial motor vehicle route in place.”

Although Honaker was not at liberty to disclose details until all parties are in agreement, he noted that the plan involves “routing commercial motor vehicles around the city if they’re not specifically making deliveries to businesses in Lewisburg.” 

Individuals requiring assistance with this or other matters should contact Sen. Joe Manchin’s representatives at 304-342-5855, or Del. Mike Honaker at 304-667-0555. RealWV will provide updates regarding this situation as additional information is made available. 

Click here to read RealWV’s full interview with DOH’s Chief Engineer of District Operations Joe Pack.

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