The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 18, 2013

Transportation, metro designation discussed at third Beckley Comprehensive Plan workshop

BECKLEY — Transportation and Beckley’s new designation as a metropolitan area were two major topics at the third of four workshops this week for the Comprehensive Plan.  

Poggemeyer Design Group consultant Randy Mielnik said his crew is about two-thirds of the way through the planning process, and all the information collected at these workshops will help shape the Comprehensive Plan.

This plan will provide a roadmap for the city of Beckley for the next 10 years.

Two Parsons Brinckerhoff representatives, vice president David W. Hafley and supervising planner Jeanne Stevens, also attended this session to share their thoughts on city transportation.

“Transit needs to work seamlessly with the Comprehensive Plan,” Stevens said. “The last Census showed that Beckley met a 50,000 population and gave it an urbanized area designation.”

She said the core of that population is the city of Beckley, but that number also included unincorporated portions of Raleigh and Fayette counties, as well as Oak Hill.

State officials, including Division of Highways representatives, will soon make a long-range transportation plan, which will span through 2040, but her company focuses on shorter-term goals.

Stevens said her team can create traffic models that incorporate statistics, such as what time famies travel, how many trips they make per day and where they go.

“We need to be looking at where the needs are.”

Mayor Emmett Pugh said the city is continuing to work with state officials and the Transit Committee on the new metropolitan designation.

“It’s up and coming, but still new to a lot of people, myself included,” Pugh said.

Hafley said buses are being looked at as the primary mode of public transit for the area.

He added that recommendations for short term plans for transportation must be adopted around February.

“The plan must be fiscally constrained with an MPO (metropolitan planning organization),” Hafley said.

“We need to streamline things and let you get right down to business.”

Stevens added that transportation alternatives must also be included, which includes sidewalk restoration, beautification, bike paths and pedestrian walkways, and is usually about 10 percent of the service transportation funds.

“You may be able to piece together several funding options, transportation, housing, etc., and afford to fund a big project.”

Roundabouts, which are a type of circular intersection where road traffic is slowed and flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island to several exits on various intersecting roads, were also discussed as an option at several Beckley locations.

This type of roadway structure is thought to eliminate T-bone crashes, as entering traffic must always yield to traffic already in the circle.

The East Beckley Bypass was also a topic of discussion; Mayor Pugh said construction is expected to start in early spring and he anticipates it will be ready for traffic in July 2015.

Stephen Deal, with AmeriCorps Vista in Raleigh County, has attended all three of the workshops thus far.

Deal said he is focused on community development on a county-wide and regional basis.

He works on beautification took kits, so the work of the Comprehensive Plan “dovetails” into his own work.

“I think it’s very useful to have rapport with these individuals,” Deal said.

He said his issues with transportation are that there is no uniform height requirement for signs, which causes aesthetic issues. It would be “more orderly” if there were specific requirements.

Deal also said he looks forward to the “complete streets” concept, meaning the streets are less of something to “go through,” and more of somewhere to visit. Creating a complete street includes adding street lights, trees and a cohesive theme.

He said he would also like to see a more welcoming downtown entrance.

As for the rail trail, Deal said he would like for additional lighting to be added, which he believes would make it a “more viable pedestrian corridor.”

The final workshop will be held today at 9 a.m. at the UC - Beckley John W. Eye Conference Center. This workshop will focus on neighborhoods.

For more information, visit www.planbeckley.com.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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