LEWISBURG — The volume of vehicular traffic in this otherwise peaceful Greenbrier County town has been a topic of conversation at both the local and state level for more than 30 years.
Discussions have focused on everything from proposed bypasses meandering through the countryside either east or west of town to the elimination of most on-street downtown parking or even adding a second Lewisburg exit off of Interstate 64. Each has been subjected to studies, and each, by turn, has been shelved until unlikely “consensus” is achieved or simply rejected as unworkable.
While people still grumble about the town’s stop-and-start traffic flow, attention at October’s city council meeting turned to another kind of traffic — foot traffic.
Lewisburg resident Jerry Laufer expressed concern about the “safety and health” of the community in light of a couple of recent incidents at city intersections. He presented two possible solutions to what he suggested were intersections that are less than safe for pedestrians.
Laufer’s first solution would be to install an auditory signal that would let pedestrians know that a given intersection is safe to cross — that vehicular traffic has halted. The second solution would involve stopping all vehicles at an intersection at once and allowing pedestrians to cross in any direction they wish, including diagonally.
Council thanked Laufer for his presentation, noting that because all three of Lewisburg’s downtown traffic signals are on state-maintained highways — either U.S. 219 or U.S. 60 — the decision on whether to adopt one or both of his suggestions will be up to the West Virginia Division of Highways.
In a later telephone interview, city manager Jacy Faulkner said that while she has not personally fielded any complaints from pedestrians, Lewisburg does have a unique situation.
“Traffic is a challenge for a small town with two major roads that meet in the center of town,” she said. “We don’t have control over those major roads that run through town, but we definitely are passing along the information and recommendations that Jerry gave us to the Division of Highways.”
Faulkner acknowledged that traffic is an ongoing issue for the town.
“We get a lot of complaints about the traffic,” she said. “It’s frustrating to sit in traffic, and I understand that.”
In a separate interview, Police Chief Chris Teubert said he also gets complaints about traffic volume “all the time,” but none that have focused on design issues at traffic signals. There is, he said, a continuing problem with people running red lights, and he often hears from the public about that specific issue.
He said the city recently has seen a couple of incidents in which pedestrians were struck by vehicles at intersections.
The latest of those happened a couple of weeks ago at the intersection of U.S. 60 and Lafayette Street, next to Simms Exxon. There is no traffic signal at that intersection, only stop signs on Lafayette. Teubert said the cause of that accident was sun glare, which affected both the motorist and the pedestrian. There were no injuries in that incident, he said.
A more serious incident occurred on Aug. 7 when four people — one of whom was in a wheelchair — were struck by a vehicle while crossing the intersection at U.S. 60 (Washington Street) and Court Street. All involved were taken to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment, but Teubert said no serious injuries were reported.
The U.S. 60/Court Street intersection does have a traffic signal. All three of downtown Lewisburg’s traffic signals include walk/don’t walk electronic signage that is triggered by a manual button that the pedestrian must push to activate.
“Each incident is unique,” Teubert said, speaking in general terms. “Every instance is a little different. Sometimes the pedestrian is at fault, and other times the motorist is at fault.”
The chief said experience tells him that impatience on one side or the other is at the root of many pedestrian/motorist encounters.
“People get in a hurry and aren’t as careful as they should be,” he said. “But the majority are just accidents.”
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