By C.V. Moore
A total of $13 million in road improvements are complete or currently being undertaken by the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) in support of Boy Scouts of America’s Summit Bechtel Reserve development in Fayette County.
While plans are still under development, details are emerging about how the BSA plans to handle heavy traffic flow associated with July 2013’s National Jamboree, expected to attract around 40,000 Scouts, plus visitors.
Greg Hylton of the DOH says that when the BSA was purchasing the Garden Grounds property in Fayette County, they came to the state agency and said there were seven sections of road that needed attention in order for them to pull off the Jamboree.
The most significant of these is an $8 million project to widen Mill Creek Road to two lanes. The second most expensive — repairing and repaving Mount Hope’s Main Street — was added to the list later. Of all the projects, these two are the least far along in construction. They are both scheduled for completion in the spring.
At the request of local citizens, Hylton addressed members of the Fayette County Commission, Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals on the issue at a public meeting on Friday.
Hylton said repeatedly that he was not privy to details on traffic flow planning related to the Summit project, leading some in the room to request a presentation from “an answer person.”
Steve McGowan, an attorney and one of the lead local volunteers for The Summit, has some of those answers, but he says the routing and traffic flow for the Jamboree are still being worked out between the BSA and the state.
Some have speculated that vehicle traffic headed for the event would be forced off of U.S. 19 at the Bradley and Blue Circle Road interchanges before traveling up U.S. 16, through downtown Mount Hope, and then down U.S. 61 to the Summit’s main entrance at Mill Creek Road.
But McGowan says that’s not the case.
“That is not the plan for the Jamboree. The volume is simply too many people. We could never do that. There’s no place to park them,” he said.
“We certainly hope visitors coming to or from the Jamboree will take the time to stop in Mount Hope or any of the communities in the area,” he added.
The main entrance of the Summit will be along U.S. 61, at its intersection with Mill Creek Road. A service entrance at Glen Jean will be used for deliveries and personnel. A second service entrance on U.S. 61 will be used for “logistics purposes,” says McGowan.
The BSA has contracted with a major transportation coordination company, Transportation Management Systems, to handle the overall coordination of traffic movement.
“They are also coordinating with the state of West Virginia to help create a traffic management plan that will provide for the highest efficiency possible in the movement of vehicles and to reduce highway congestion,” says McGowan.
He says he does not know what routing has been discussed between TMS and DOH, or whether any has been finalized. However, he did offer a broad picture of how the traffic logistics might play out.
According to McGowan, no private automobiles will be driving to The Summit during the Jamboree.
Visitor parking will be located at the Bradley interchange at a vacant lot behind the Sunoco station there, which has been made available by Robert Kosnoski, a businessman in Beckley.
Visitors will be transported by motor coach from that location to the Summit, though that plan is “still under development,” according to McGowan.
Staff will park either at the onsite location or at the Sun Mine property that the BSA has acquired along U.S. 19. That property may also be used as “dead storage” where vehicles can park for the entire Jamboree.
School buses will be used to transport staff from the Sun Mine parking to the Summit.
Each Boy Scout troop or venture crew will arrive as a contingent in a bus, whether it is chartered by the unit or provided as a shuttle from a local transportation hub.
The buses will be staged and scheduled to arrive throughout the arrival day. They will be held in a staging area and then filtered into a registration area. After completing registration, those buses will proceed to the site.
In an effort to reduce transportation needs and energy costs, the BSA is trying to retain those buses so that they can be recycled for use during the Jamboree to transport visitors.
How many buses are used will depend on how many visitors attend.
“That is still being looked at to determine the visitor capacity on a daily basis and projecting how that visitor capacity would flow,” said McGowan. “Best case scenario, we would sell out all of our visitor tickets prior to the Jamboree so that we would be able to have a fixed number and predict the traffic flow. But it is much too early for us to speculate on that at this time.”
Attendees at Friday’s meeting in Fayetteville seemed disappointed that the DOH isn’t doing something more “transformative” on the front end to handle the anticipated traffic flow.
“It’s obvious that the department is going to wait and have a trial run in ’13 and make any corrections after that,” said Guy Dooley of the Fayette County Planning Commission.
For instance, the division isn’t building any new ramps or lights at the Glen Jean intersection on U.S. 19, widely viewed by locals, along with the Green Town/Hill Top intersection, as a “death trap.”
But McGowan assures that no scouting transportation will be using the Glen Jean intersection.
“Our consultants will work with the DOH to make sure that we use the safest interchanges and provide for an efficient traffic management plan,” he said.
When asked whether the DOH has done any traffic studies to examine more closely the traffic flow around the Jamboree, Hylton said he was not privy to those discussions.
“I don’t know that anybody is real sure what’s going to happen in the scheme of things. They have put together some ideas, or kicked around some ideas, of what’s going to happen, but until July I think we’re just kind of waiting and seeing,” he said.
Some expressed concern that if the BSA followed through with parking plans at a newly acquired lot on Sun Mine Road, then it would create a very different traffic flow than what DOH is preparing for. One attendee asked whether there is any process to reevaluate the projects as plans change, addressing areas of local concern.
Fayette County Commission member Denise Scalph raised the possibility of using a soon-to-be-created Metropolitan Planning Organization, designed to be responsive to local input on needed transportation projects, as a forum to bring local ideas to the table.
“The planning is going to be a very important part of what will take place in this area and we need to do it so it’s something we can be proud of,” said Dooley.
Hylton says the state and the BSA are in communication about the traffic issues.
“Hopefully they will share with us what their strategies are as we get closer to July,” says Tim Richardson, Zoning Officer for Fayette County. “We don’t have a big picture of what’s transpiring.”
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