Windsor Manor Residents Not Sold on Two-Way Traffic in Downtown Wheeling
WHEELING — Mayor Glenn Elliott said opening Main and Market streets to two-way traffic will provide a safer environment for downtown Wheeling pedestrians, but 58 residents of the Windsor Manor apartment building disagree to the point of signing a petition against the idea.
“We step out here — we’ve got to dodge bikers, skateboarders,” Windsor Manor Residents Association President Charles Ballouz told Elliott during a Wednesday meeting at the 1143 Main St. apartment building. “Now, we’re going to be facing traffic coming in both directions.”
In June, Elliott and fellow city council members voted to perform a traffic study of the downtown streets, which state officials require before they’ll consider changes to the traffic pattern. Main and Market streets through downtown are part of W.Va. 2.
The West Virginia Division of Highways and federal officials in August agreed to cover 90 percent of the study’s estimated $45,000 cost.
“A lot of people have walkers and wheelchairs. This is going to make it harder for them,” Ballouz told Elliott.
Elliott, however, disagrees. He and other council members have said they want to reinvigorate downtown Wheeling into the kind of area it was decades ago: a place in which one can live, work, shop and enjoy entertainment, all within walking or bicycling distance.
“This is about protecting the folks who walk downtown. We’re doing it because we think it is right,” Elliott told Ballouz and the other residents assembled for the meeting. “We’re doing this more for you than for anyone else.
“You should give pedestrians the first right of going, and then cars get to go,” Elliott added.
Elliott believes allowing vehicles to travel both north and south on the streets would benefit pedestrians by slowing traffic. Living and working in The Professional Building on Market Street, Elliott said he will feel better with two-way traffic expanded to Main and Market, as is already the case with Chapline Street.
“I feel better walking my dog on Chapline Street,” he said. “Cars go slower on Chapline Street.”
Downtown resident Connie Cain does not live at Windsor Manor, but came to the meeting to express her concerns.
“I think, in a residential area, you have to consider the residents and their ages,” she said. “I think it’s a bad idea.”
Elliott said the traffic study is underway, be he did not know when it would be complete. DOH District 6 Engineer Gus Suwaid this week said the outcome of the study is yet to be determined.
“They (the DOH) know it is a priority of council,” Elliott said.
Elliott appreciates the cooperation of the DOH, but did express frustration with state officials when discussing the matter with Windsor Manor residents. He said unlike the state, his objective is not simply to move people through the city as quickly as possible.
“Human lives matter a lot more than cars per minute,” Elliott said. “You have to put pedestrians first.”
As Elliott envisions, two-way traffic would not impact the exit ramps of Interstate 70 from the Fort Henry Bridge or the Wheeling Tunnel, he said. However, the status of the entrance ramps in the area of 10th and Market streets are up for discussion, Elliott said.
After the meeting, Ballouz said he appreciated Elliott’s words, but still opposes two-way traffic on Main and Market streets. He plans to collect more signatures for the petition before officially submitting it to City Clerk Janice Jones.
“It’s going to be dangerous. There are already a lot of impatient drivers around here,” Ballouz added.