Petition Drive Is On Against Two-Way Traffic Study in Wheeling

BALLOUZ

BALLOUZ

WHEELING — Mayor Glenn Elliott believes two-way traffic on Main and Market streets would make downtown Wheeling safer for pedestrians, but many residents of the Windsor Manor apartment building fear such a change would create new hazards for those who already struggle to cross the street.

During the Tuesday Wheeling City Council meeting, Windsor Manor Residents Association President Charles Ballouz formally presented a 69-signature petition to City Clerk Janice Jones, which expresses opposition to the concept of allowing vehicular traffic to travel north and south on both Main and Market streets in the downtown area.

Also, council voted to table an ordinance that would allow the city to remove snow and ice from sidewalks in certain areas of the city and charge building owners for the work if the owners fail to do so within 24 hours. Council members approved an amendment that would establish a fee of $175 per employee, per hour, for the work.

Speaking of the danger pedestrians — many of whom are elderly or handicapped — already face while crossing Main and Market streets, Ballouz said letting vehicles go both ways on the streets will only make the situation worse.

“Living downtown, we see it firsthand, and we’re totally against it,” Ballouz said of Windsor Manor residents. “We’ll be bringing other petitions in due time from other high-rises, as well as going to the streets. There are a lot of people concerned.”

During the summer, Elliott and fellow council members voted to conduct a traffic study on Main and Market streets, both of which have only permitted one-way traffic between the Wheeling Tunnel and 16th Street for decades. The West Virginia Division of Highways requires such a study before it will consider altering the traffic pattern on those streets, which are considered part of W.Va. 2.

The cost of the study is estimated at $45,000, but state and federal funding will cover 90 percent of the cost, leaving the city’s portion at about $4,500.

Recently, Elliott went to the 1143 Main St. apartment building to try to convince residents that he is working to improve their situation. He believes more drivers would obey the posted 25-mph speed limit with traffic flowing in both directions.

“Mr. Ballouz is convinced that two-way traffic will make it more unsafe than it is now,” Elliott said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I would argue that if cars are going 25 mph in both directions, that is safer for pedestrians than having cars go 40 mph in one direction.”

After the meeting, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said he had not made up his mind on how he would vote if state officials allow the city to implement two-way traffic, while adding he understands the residents’ concerns. However, he said those who strongly oppose the idea need to recognize Wheeling is not the same place it was decades ago.

“We have to get out of this mindset that just because this is the way something has always been, it has to continue to be that way,” Thalman said.

As for the snow removal ordinance, Elliott and Thalman said the amended version should be up for vote during the next meeting. Councilman Dave Palmer initiated the amendment to the original measure, which council unanimously approved Tuesday.

Now, instead of simply charging a property owner for the cost of the labor — which City Manager Robert Herron said could have amounted to an average of $50 per incident — the ordinance will allow the city to charge $175 per labor hour, plus 6-percent interest if the bill is not paid within a year.

Palmer had previously expressed concern that the ordinance as originally written would encourage property owners simply to let the city clear the snow and ice and then pay the bill.

“There are some private entrepreneurs who do snow removal,” Palmer said. “I don’t want to undercut them.”

Wheeling already has an ordinance on the books requiring property owners to keep sidewalks clear, but it does not authorize the city to perform the work when owners don’t comply. In addition to downtown, the new ordinance also would cover the Centre Market area, Zane Street on Wheeling Island and National Road in Elm Grove.

“The city has no intention of getting into the snow removal business,” Thalman said after the meeting.

The next city council meeting is set for noon Dec. 5 at Bridge Street Middle School in Elm Grove. Photo identification will be required for entry.

Tentatively, the session will begin with two separate public hearings. One will be for establishing the $175 fee for snow removal, while the other will be to establish a tax increment financing district in the area of Ohio Valley Medical Center and the Center Wheeling parking garage to help California-based Alecto Healthcare Services operate the facility.

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