MOZART - School buses from Marshall and Ohio counties are transporting students along Mozart Road between Mozart and Mount Olivet where an Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority bus rolled over earlier this month.
On Aug. 7, a 24-passenger OVRTA bus carrying only a driver and driver trainee dropped off the berm of Mozart Road and rolled over several times down an embankment. A witness who had been following the southbound bus on the narrow road said he noticed the bus move to the right to make room for an oncoming vehicle when one of the rear tires slipped off the berm, causing the driver to lose control.
Marshall County Schools Transportation Supervisor Dave Smith said two 77-passenger buses use the road daily.
Photo by Scott McCloskey/An Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority bus rolled over an embankment Aug. 7 on Mozart Road.
"I went out and checked it out and it is not a good situation," he said. "The road is solid but there appears to be nothing there to hold a guard rail unless they install piling. It is a straight dropoff at the edge of the road."
Smith said he has alerted bus drivers to use caution in the area.
"I told them if they see oncoming traffic, to let it pass before continuing," he said. "That will allow them to swing more toward the center of the road and avoid the dropoff."
Ohio County Schools Transportation Director David Ziegler said his district has one bus traveling the route.
"I have not heard any complaints," he said. "I leave it up to the drivers to report any safety issues. If a problem is reported, we investigate it immediately."
The West Virginia Division of Highways has no plan to remedy the situation in the short term. DOH District 6 Maintenance Engineer Paul Hicks said much depends on funding.
"We do not have anything planned at this time," he said. "We can evaluate it, and if guardrails are necessary, we would install them when funds become available based upon priorities throughout the district."
Smith said the problem on Mozart Road is not the issue on his mind during the first days of the new school year. He said truck traffic from the natural gas drilling industry is cause for school bus drivers to be concerned.
"Most of the drilling companies work with us to minimize traffic during our blackout times," he said. "They normally do not run trucks between 6:30-9 a.m. nor from 3-4:30 p.m."
Still, Smith said buses navigating roads damaged by the drilling vehicles and trucks not slowing down through school zones are concerns.
"The Marshall County Sheriff's Department is aware of this and they are watching school zones more carefully," he said.
Ziegler said truck traffic from the gas drilling industry presents some problems for bus drivers.
"We see the water tankers and fracking trucks running in convoys on some narrow roads," he said.
He said most drilling companies work closely with school officials to stay off the roads during hours when students are being transported, but such is not the case with pipeline company trucks.
"The pipeliners do not tell us what they are doing," he said. "They are often crossing a road we travel or are unloading large machinery, which takes a great deal of time."