The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 12, 2013

Turnpike gearing up for Scout Jamboree

Bradley called ‘key’ to smooth traffic flow

BECKLEY — Bradley looms as the key to keeping traffic moving smoothly along the West Virginia Turnpike over the 10-day duration of the Boy Scouts Jamboree.

If one snarl develops in that community, it’s Katy bar the door, Turnpike Manager Greg Barr warned Thursday, at the monthly meeting of the road’s governing board, the West Virginia Parkways Authority.

Barr said the Turnpike has been working directly with Scout leaders in an effort to keep traffic moving.

“The primary hub of activity, of course, will be around Bradley and U.S. 19,” he said, since that highway is a direct link to the Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reserve in Glen Jean.

“If that were to start to back up at the hub area, into our North Beckley toll plaza, and back into the main line, that’s where we would start having a big problem. That’s where we’re really geared up to do traffic control if it backs on the mainline.”

Barr said his “fear” is that even if some traffic is waved through North Beckley to clear out a jam quicker off the main highway, “if it’s backed all the way from Bradley to the toll plaza, there would be no place to wave the traffic through to until the blockage is stopped.”

“We’re prepared to do a lot of traffic control if needed, and we hope it’s not needed,” he said.

Scout leaders already have been arriving for the event, officially running July 15-24.

Barr views an unpredictable truck accident as “the wild card” in preparing for the Jamboree, and there has been a rash of them of late.

A taste of how one such mishap could complicate matters came Sunday, at the peak of commuters winding up the long Fourth of July weekend.

Around mid-afternoon, a tractor-trailer struck the median wall, causing the rig to separate, leaving it hanging over both sides and blocking lanes in either direction. The chassis lay in the middle of the road.

“It was a horrible accident at Milepost 78,” Barr told the board.

“The driver was not seriously injured, but think of 2,500 cars an hour coming at you in both directions. It very quickly created 15-mile backups in both directions at times. It was a heavy delay for travelers. Basically, we had a lane open very quickly within a couple of hours. But once traffic backs up that far, and it compresses traffic to one lane, it takes a while to clear out.”

To get an idea of the numbers, Barr said the Turnpike did a comparative study going back to the Thursday before Independence Day through Sunday night and looking at the week of the Fourth.

Figures revealed a .7 percent drop from the previous year.

“That’s a very small decline,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have been surprised by 1 or 2 percent, so really it wasn’t that bad.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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