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CURRENT STORIES


Remember when there was no Southern Bypass?

by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

While contemplating a variety of differences between the way things are today and the way they were -- say, 50 years ago -- the thought occurred to me: What if the Southern Bypass (probably better known as Route 98) had never been built?

The more I thought about it, the more astounding became the "what-ifs," the "coulda-beens" and the "mighta-beens," and they weren't very pretty.

Take emergency situations, for example. In the early '50s, and before, any fire, EMS or police units coming from Nutter Fort, Anmoore, Stonewood or any other points south had to travel W.Va. 20 through Nutter Fort and on toward East Main and Marshall streets.

There, a motorist would have to turn onto East Main, through Goff Plaza, across the bridge and on into the downtown area. You had to pass through downtown -- to the delight of merchants, of course -- because the Clarksburg Expressway, at its shortest, wasn't opened until around 1956 or '57. And you still came out at West Pike and Chestnut streets.

From there, and once you reached the West End, you could go toward Adamston or Stealey to reach U.S. 19 north and 50, or U.S. 19 south, respectively.

For simplicity in making my point, let's say a motorist had to travel several miles south of the VA Bridge on Route 19. A firefighter, ambulance driver or police officer would have to go through the relative "maze" that I described above.

If city traffic weren't heavy, drivers would be lucky to get from Point A to Point B in about 20 minutes. But today, with the bypass there, he'd get from Point A (eastern end of current bypass) to Point B (the western side of it) in little more than five minutes, in most cases. And, as I mentioned, that was if city traffic was relatively light.

Sure, Route 98 is mainly a two-lane highway for its entire length, but it's a modern highway -- actually three lanes wide for travelers ascending the hill.

It's basically the same situation with the expressway, which is part of Route 50, except that "50" is four lanes wide all the way to just past the Interstate 79 interchange. Fifty years ago, it would take you 20 minutes to get from Bridgeport Hill to the site of the current West Pike Street exit. Today, it would be less than 10.

Yes, I suppose there are some things today that reflect definite progress.

- - -

A most humorous situation in the South came to my attention via the wire service earlier this week. Seems that one of about a dozen inmates who was awaiting hearings was escorted to a jury room recently to speak with his lawyer, after which he asked to go into an adjacent restroom.

Once inside, he climbed into the ceiling crawl space, a sheriff's spokesperson reported.

A state court judge was in the courtroom when the inmate, who was wearing no shoes or socks at the time, fell through the ceiling, landing near the judge's desk in his chambers.

After security officers were called and had nabbed him, the inmate was arrested and charged with obstruction of officers and giving false information.

Well, I'd have thought the inmate might have been afforded some leniency. After all, it's not every day that a judge receives a drop-in visitor.

Have a great weekend!

Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by phone at 626-1438 or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com