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Closed section of Hart St. creates big traffic woes

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Stealey residents have been coping with parking and traffic nightmares ever since a portion of Hart Street was closed in 1998.

City council members originally looked into fixing the slippage, but have since determined that it will be too costly.

After deciding against putting upward of $2 million into the road, council members asked MSES Consultants to study the area's traffic patterns.

What they found was somewhat surprising to some council members.

The closed portion of Hart Street -- not quite an entire block between North and Baker streets -- reroutes so much traffic through Stealey that many of the wide streets become choked down to one way.

Other problems are badly marked curbs, missing signage, a lack of traffic controls and many on-street parking spaces, according to Larry Rine of MSES.

"I live there and there are people parking in places where maybe the curbs aren't painted yellow, but they shouldn't be there," said Councilwoman Becky Lake. "Economically, we can't open Hart Street, but there are some things that we can do to alleviate some of the problems."

Council has since forwarded the study to the city's traffic commission for further analysis. Public Works Supervisor Anthony Bellotte, one of five members of the commission, said nothing was discussed at their meeting last week, although some discussion is expected during the next meeting.

"We'll probably look at things like replacing some signs and painting yellow lines on curbs," Bellotte said.

MSES worked in conjunction with West Virginia University and used some of the most up-to-date high tech traffic sensors, Rine said. Even so, some of the inherent on-street parking patterns blocked initial attempts to gather information.

The sensors, which measured speeds as well as counted cars, were placed on Joseph, Lewis, Hall, and Nicholas streets, Winding Way and Baker, Euclid, North, Duff and Duncan avenues for 24 hours last August.

North Avenue was by far the busiest street, with more than 2,500 cars passing over the sensors. Duff Avenue was a close second, with more than 2,300 cars. Just one other street, Duncan Avenue, surpassed 1,000 cars.

By studying the number of cars entering and leaving Stealey and the times of peak usage, the study determined that Nicholas Street and North, Duff and Duncan avenues showed the most impact from the closure, Rine said.

Many residents were interviewed for the study and indicated that the closure was more of an inconvenience and they did not like driving on Duff Avenue because of the parking and delays.

According to Rine, the single biggest factor that affected the traffic flow is parking, Rine said. Several options were explored, including reducing on-street parking to one side of the street, changing traffic patterns to one-way streets and widen certain streets in selected areas.

However, Rine said none of the options would be cost-effective and would result in a high "frustration factor" for residents.

"We have exhausted every effort and spent lots of money to see what could be done," Lake said. "We have also laid a lot of groundwork in the event that there are any future problems."

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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