Southern West Virginia is just nine days away from welcoming an estimated 24,750 Boy Scouts and leaders to the 2017 National Jamboree, allowing the new J.W. and Hazel Ruby West Virginia Welcome Center to serve its main purpose.
The center, on U.S. 19, just south of Sun Mine Road in Fayette County, will serve as a window of transportation into the 14,000-acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. It will be expected to serve over 600 buses full of Scouts and leaders beginning Wednesday, July 19.
Gary Hartley, spokesman at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, said each visitor wanting to go into the reserve will enter through the center in a way designed to decrease increased traffic flow in the area.
"Our goal is to get all the buses transported over to the Summit within an eight-hour span, which would be getting one bus in and out to the Summit every 45 seconds," he said.
A guide, who Hartley said will be from the Order of the Arrow, will get on the bus with the Scouts once they are checked in and show them where their campsite is at the Summit. The guide will then return to the welcome center and repeat the same role with another troop.
The center contains around 700 acres of land, allowing for more parking than the 2013 Jamboree.
This year, the facility will also serve as a parking area for staff and volunteers.
"Because traffic was conducted so well in 2013, staff feels like they can loosen up and let more vehicles on and off the Summit site more easily," Hartley said. "In 2013, they brought staff in and stored their vehicles in storage facilities; they weren't able to leave. But this year their cars can be parked at the welcome center and shuttles will transport them back and forth from there and the Summit."
Hartley said he believes the opportunity of more freedom could possibly bring more economic development into the local community.
"Staff and volunteers will be able to go in and out and go to shops, restaurants or wherever they like and see what our area has to offer," he said.
Staff members are not required to stay on site this year and many will be staying in local hotels, bringing in more business.
"But no matter who comes or goes, whether it be a Scout, staff member or volunteer, they will always go through the welcome center," Hartley said.
The West Virginia Division of Highways and hired contractor Transportation Management Services have been working together to plan out bus routes, times and intersections and how they can prevent as many traffic jams as possible while people are making their way to the center.
"In 2013, so many people from the community were worried they wouldn't be able to make it in and out of their houses or to appointments on time due to increased traffic flow," Hartley said. "But I think many people were surprised at how efficiently we worked to not create any traffic chaos."
Hartley said the DOH and TMS have worked out specific routes so traffic flow due to the Jamboree will not cross over U.S. 19.
"This will make it safer getting everyone to the welcome center. They have avoided any left turns across traffic, making transportation less dangerous," he said.
The center has what Hartley referred to as "extra roads" branching off of it to different areas, allowing for less traffic flow on the highway.
Throughout the Jamboree, around 3,000 Boy Scouts will be transported off the site for community service projects, making it even more important that transportation be clean and efficient going in and out of the center.
"This is a big thing for our state," Hartley said. "It's important we make the time enjoyable for the Scouts and keep the community in mind when thinking of transportation. That's why the center serves such an important purpose."
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