Wheeling Resident to Council: ‘Listen To the People’

Wheeling Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, left, and Councilmen Ty Thorngate and Dave Palmer look on during Tuesday’s city council meeting. Photo by Miranda Sebroski

WHEELING — City council members heard continued opposition to a proposed change from one-way to two-way traffic on Main and Market streets in the downtown area.

Two residents spoke Tuesday night on the issue during council’s regular meeting. Charles Ballouz, who lives at 1143 Main St., presented a petition with an additional 322 signatures of residents opposing two-way traffic flow. He said 593 signatures have been received to date and he expects to get 300 to 400 more signatures against the proposal.

Ballouz said 192 names on his petition work for The Health Plan. The firm employs about 400 people at its new downtown headquarters.

“Even those people like to go in and out and not be subjected to the dangers or features that aren’t beneficial to their business,” he said, referring to workers at The Health Plan.

Connie Cain, who lives at 162 14th St., urged council members to “listen to the people” on this issue. If they don’t, she said, “You’re not representing the people. You’re representing yourself.”

Noting that the next council election will occur in 2020, Cain said, “We would like to have people to hear us, not just to have people come in and talk.”

The city, West Virginia Department of Transportation and Belomar Regional Council held a May 9 public meeting on the downtown traffic pattern proposal at West Virginia Northern Community College. Officials presented preliminary findings from a study of improvement concepts for Main and Market streets, including a potential conversion to two-way traffic. The study is part of an ongoing downtown streetscape improvement project that is under development by WVDOT.

Ballouz said residents who attended the session “saw nothing that contributes to downtown safety or welfare in general.”

He also criticized the consultant’s comparison of Wheeling, with its population of 27,000 to 28,000, with cities that have populations of 100,000 to 300,000 and have wider streets. He said better results might be achieved if Wheeling’s specific features were taken into account in the plan.

Proponents have suggested that two-way traffic might encourage motorists to look at downtown storefronts more closely. However, Cain said, “Businesses have to be here for people to come, not for streets to change to two-way.”

Ballouz suggested that the matter be put to a public vote in the November general election.

Council members did not respond directly to Ballouz’ and Cain’s comments, but Mayor Glenn Elliott said the public comment period on the traffic study presentation continues through Friday.

Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said the public may submit comments to Stephen Thieken, consultant and project manager for Burgess & Niple Inc. in Parkersburg, by phone at 304-485-8541, ext. 1356, or by email at steve.thieken@burgessniple.com on or before Friday. She said residents also can visit Belomar’s website at belomar.org for project information and the opportunity to comment on the project.

Elliott, who previously has endorsed the two-way traffic plan, said he expects state transportation officials to give the city feedback on the proposal after the comment period ends. He said it would then be up to city council to make a decision on whether to change the traffic pattern.

During last week’s public meeting, those speaking in favor of two-way traffic included Wheeling Heritage Executive Director Jake Dougherty and Jim McCue, project manager for Coon Restoration and Sealants, an Ohio firm that is converting the former Schmulbach Building into a $20 million apartment complex in the 1100 block of Market Street.