Officials announce auto, air traffic plans for Jamboree

Buses full of boy scouts and staff travel along U.S. 19 after turning around at the Oak Hill "Downtown" exit en route for the J.W. & Hazel Ruby West Virginia Welcome Center near Glen Jean in this file photo. The buses were bringing around 30,000 scouts for the 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. (Chris Jackson/The Register-Herald)

West Virginia Department of Transportation officials are urging locals to "yield" to the 24th World Scout Jamboree traffic on Sunday, July 21, when 200 buses per hour will be arriving in Fayette County for the Jamboree.

Sunday is expected to be the heaviest day for traffic while the Jamboree is in session at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean, a 14,000-acre training and adventure center. Beckley and Mount Hope and Pea Ridge in Fayette are among the towns that will see increased traffic as the buses start to arrive on Sunday.

"There will be some added traffic throughout the week, but, really, Sunday is the day you're going to see a large amount of traffic," said DOH District 9 Engineer Steve Cole. "(We're asking) if people can just stay out of the way, avoid the area, if possible."

Cole said around 200 buses are anticipated to arrive each hour throughout the day on Sunday, compared to about 140 buses an hour for National Jamboree in 2017. He characterized the anticipation of the 12-day World Jamboree traffic as likely being more, but not overwhelmingly more, abundant than that generated by the National Jamboree.

"We've done it before," Cole said of traffic management. "We feel pretty confident we'll be all right."

Cole said that Interstate 77 bus traffic from Charlotte to the south or from Charleston to the north and all bus traffic from the west will use U.S. 19 at the North Beckley exit.

Buses from the east on Interstate 64 will use the East Beckley Bypass to access U.S. 19 at Crossroads Mall.

All buses will then exit in Oak Hill at the Pea Ridge exit, do a U-turn and access the U.S. 19 southbound lane. Buses will exit U.S. 19 at Sun Mine Road and enter the J.W. and Hazel Ruby Memorial West Virginia Welcome Center in Glen Jean.

"We just installed a nice turn lane," said Cole, adding that DOH officials did not want to send buses onto any graded part of U.S. 19.

Once Scouts are checked in at the welcome centers, the buses will turn south on U.S. 19 to the Bradley exit, where bus traffic will use W.Va. 16 through Mount Hope to Glen Jean.

At Jack Furst Drive, they will turn to access the main road of the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Cole said.

Cole said that departure traffic on Aug. 2 will likely not be as noticeable to locals as arrival traffic.

Beckley-Raleigh County Memorial Airport General Manager Tom Cochran reported Thursday that the airport has prepared to welcome World Jamboree air traffic and that military support planes had started to arrive on Wednesday and Thursday.

Planes with World Jamboree participants and visitors are expected to continue arriving today and throughout the weekend, he added.

"We're anticipating double the activities, if not three times as much, as what we've had in the past of aircraft dedicated to that (Jamboree)," noted Cochran.

Regular air traffic related to commercial flights and those companies associated with the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction will also continue at the airport, he added.

While some visitors will park their private planes at the airport only long enough for passengers to disembark, others may park for a longer time at the airport. Cochran said airport management will arrange for aircraft parking and may close the shorter runway to create an impromptu apron for parked planes, if necessary.

Cochran had arranged for the main runway to be upgraded and paved last month, in anticipation of World Jamboree traffic. He said airport staff is prepared to welcome aircraft passengers to West Virginia. The only unpredictable factor is the weather.

"During (storms), you're prone to lightning and things that prevent aircraft from maybe landing, but right now, everything looks good for the weather and what we're anticipating," he reported.

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