South Charleston residents, landowners and people who drive through the area look at the blueprints of the West Virginia Division of Highways' proposed improvements to Jefferson Road. The seven plans were displayed and explained at a meeting Tuesday in South Charleston.
At Tuesday's Jefferson Road meeting, Mike Woody of Charleston (left), Dale Drennen of South Charleston (center) and Perry Keller of the West Virginia Department of Transportation look over Woody's plans to connect South Charleston's parks using bike trails.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dale Drennen lives in Rock Lake Village, but has driven out of the way to Charleston and then along Corridor G after shopping at Southridge Centre just to avoid the terrible traffic on Jefferson Road.Drennen said that, for years, South Charleston residents and drivers have needed changes to Jefferson Road that would make it easier to drive on.Numerous people in the community attended Tuesday's first public meeting on a Jefferson Road improvement study conducted by the West Virginia Division of Highways.Officials studied the traffic from Jefferson to MacCorkle Avenue in South Charleston. The study focused on the recurring congestion and mobility problems along Jefferson Road.
Preliminary projections for the Jefferson Road improvements include seven alternatives that range in cost from $44 million to $66 million, which is much higher than the initial $25 million plan.Nearly all the alternatives widen the road to five lanes. Some add bridges and others create new intersections.Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the "most exciting" news from the study is that construction on the improvements is scheduled to begin in 2015, five years sooner than first planned.The construction is on the DOH's priority list of projects to be taken on within the next six years."This is really going to speed up development in South Charleston," Anderson said.Residents, landowners and people who frequently drive through the area walked through a room at the South Charleston Recreation Center lined with 10 colorful posters and graphics, which outlined the details.Attendees talked to the officials behind the study while, in another room, an informational video explained DOH plans and projections for Jefferson Road."The alternatives look like good fixes but they aren't cheap, and this needs to be done," Drennen said. "Either way, people aren't going to be happy, but it's for the public's good. I'm just glad to see they're doing something about it, and I'm anxious to see them make a decision."The seven alternatives are:• Widen Jefferson Road to five lanes. Build a new bridge over Davis Creek to form a four-way intersection with Kanawha Turnpike. A grade-separated intersection (intersecting roads at different levels) with the turnpike could be added later.• Widen the southern part of Jefferson's existing alignment to five lanes, but move along a new alignment to the east as the road approaches Kanawha Turnpike. Bridge over the turnpike, railroad and Davis Creek to tie back into the existing Jefferson Road near the Interstate 64 ramp overpass.
• Widen the road to five lanes with a new alignment to the east. Bridge over the turnpike, the railroad and Davis Creek to tie back into the existing Jefferson Road near the I-64 ramp overpass.• Widen the southern part of Jefferson's existing alignment to five lanes and diverge along a new alignment to the west of Davis Creek. This would parallel Davis Creek on an abandoned railroad bed to form a four-way intersection with the turnpike.• Widen the southern part of Jefferson's existing alignment to five lanes, but move along a new alignment to the east to bridge over the turnpike, the railroad and Davis Creek.• Widen Jefferson Road to five lanes. Create intersecting roads at different levels with Kanawha Turnpike, tying back into the existing Jefferson Road near the I-64 ramp overpass.• Widen the southern part of Jefferson's existing alignment to five lanes, but move along a new alignment to the south of Kanawha Turnpike and continue on a new alignment west of the existing roadway in the vicinity of the West Virginia State Police facility.Those options do not include a no-build alternative, which is an additional option and would not involve any construction to the existing Jefferson Road.
West Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Bly said officials expect to choose the top two improvement alternatives by later this year.It is vital that the public voices its opinions now, especially since the plans are in such an early stage, she said."These meetings are so important . . . people sometimes think they are pointless, but these projects are very fluid right now," Bly said. "People are concerned and we are listening."Some at Tuesday's meeting voiced concerns about their homes being affected by the roadwork, Bly said. Officials don't want to destroy any homes or businesses if they don't have to, she said.Mike Woody and his wife own property along Jefferson Road.Woody wanted to learn more about plans to put in an access road at the Trace Fork shopping plaza on Corridor G.The state bought property from the city of South Charleston for possibly building the entrance from the end of RHL Boulevard next to the South Charleston Memorial Ice Rink and down a ridge, where it would connect with Jefferson Road near the city's Public Works Department.Officials slowed that plan so the DOH could study the traffic from Jefferson Road to MacCorkle Avenue.There's a timeline for the construction of the Trace Fork road, but Jefferson Road improvements must come first, Bly said."We want to get to . . . building another entrance into Trace Fork but it would be a nightmare to do at the same time," Bly said. "[Jefferson Road improvements] need to be addressed first because, obviously, there needs to be change."Woody also wants to see more access to the city's bike paths and parks. He brought a map lined with yellow and orange highlighters to Tuesday's meeting to show his ideas of how South Charleston can "tie all of the city's parks together using bike trails."Dennis Stottlemyer also was concerned about bicycle paths. He'd like to see bike lanes because he commutes to work daily on his bike."It's a dangerous place to ride a bike," Stottlemyer said. "I see a lot of people now going to Trace Fork and work on bikes but, with an extra 10 feet, it makes a bike lane."Those who want to file a written comment may send them to Robert L Pennington, P.E., Director, Program Planning & Administration Division, West Virginia Division of Highways, Capitol Complex Building 5, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, W. Va., 25305-0430.Written comments are due by April 15.Reach Megan Workman at email@example.com or 304-348-5113.