Baileysville Mountain Road will have the worst horseshoe curve widened and improved during this construction season, according to Paul Mattox, state commissioner of highways.

Dangerously narrow in some locations with an inadequate guardrail system, W. Va. Rt. 971 snakes along the mountainside between Baileysville and Clear Fork.

School bus drivers must cross the center line to navigate some of the most treacherous hairpin curves, according to officials.

Mattox told U. S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., in a recent letter that an engineering cost estimate to construct a road across Baileysville Mountain is underway, however the new road project has not been funded.

The state Division of Highways “has committed to fund repairs to one of the three switchback curves,” Mattox told the congressman.

“The announcement that the Division of Highways will begin working as early as this spring on improvements to the Baileysville Mountain Road is wonderful news,” Rahall said. “This is only a first step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Rahall wants to see improvements to Baileysville Mountain expedited.

In February, the congressman sent a letter to Mattox in response to concerns over the safety of Baileysville Mountain.

“I have been following, with grave concern, the challenges that parents, grandparents, educators and our local leaders have faced regarding the condition of Baileysville Mountain Road,” Rahall told Mattox.

“While I realize that the terrain in West Virginia is a challenge in itself, I respectfully and personally ask that the improvement of this road be given priority and to the extent possible, every effort made to immediately address the treacherous conditions that have resulted in approximately 30 accidents in 2006,” Rahall said.

Parents and schools officials want to see the three most dangerous curves widened; however, to build a new road across the mountain will take only one mile of construction, according to officials.

County officials met with state Division of Highways representatives Feb. 14 to outline concerns about the winding mountain road; they were told it would depend on how much funding is available.

In 2005, the first, and worst, of the hairpin curves was widened and improved. Officials had identified five others, but those improvements were never made.

Former Gov. Bob Wise promised those attending the groundbreaking ceremony for Westside High School that the mountain road would be widened and straightened after he rode a school bus across it. Local officials also made certain the bus on which Wise rode that day met a couple of coal trucks on the worst of the hairpin curves.

While parents of students attending Westside High School wanted the entire mountain road widened and straightened — as was done to nearby Rock House Mountain — the school opened in 2002 without the improvements to the road.

To date only one curve has been widened and improved.

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