Tuesday, May 28, 2024

City Looking at Pedestrian Safety During Sidewalk Reconstruction

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Photo by Eric Ayres

Portions of sidewalk remain under construction near the intersection of 10th and Main streets in downtown Wheeling. As work on the Downtown Streetscape Project continues, motorists and pedestrians alike have been challenged to navigate through construction areas to get to destinations, particularly during big events that continue to draw visitors to the city.

WHEELING – Crowds continue to visit downtown Wheeling despite the cavern of orange barrels through the city’s main traffic arteries, but officials are looking into safety issues pertaining to pedestrian traffic during big events.

Major events at the Capitol Theatre and WesBanco Arena draw local people and visitors from all over the Ohio Valley to the downtown area. However, those attending events downtown often find closed sidewalks where work on the state’s $32 million Downtown Streetscape Project is taking place.

Some portions of the old sidewalks have been completely removed and are being reconstructed by teams of work crews from general contractor Triton Construction Inc., complete with new curbs, ADA compliant ramps, bioswales and storm water management systems.

But during the day and especially during concerts or major events downtown, many pedestrians are forced to walk in the street in some sections of town while traversing from their parking location to their destination at the theater or the arena.

Wheeling City Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis recently requested that the city administration look into safety issues during special events by the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority that draw crowds downtown.

“I was at an event at the Capitol Music Hall in the last week or so, and as you know, there’s a Streetscape project going on,” Sklavounakis said. “In some areas of our city, there are no sidewalks. And I noticed that when you park in the 10th Street Garage and you try to walk over to the Capitol, there are some sidewalks that are not there.”

Sklavounakis asked City Manager Robert Herron to discuss this issue with Kelly Tucker, director of the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, and Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, to come up with the best plan of action to ensure safety during these events.

“Can we get an off-duty police officer?” Sklavounakis asked. “Maybe give them an opportunity to earn some overtime, to just direct pedestrian traffic during the time that the Capitol Music Hall shows are letting out or opening up. In some areas, there are no sidewalks. I think that having a police officer there would be helpful for pedestrians.”

Triton is currently completing sidewalk work in the final sections along Main Street. New sidewalks should be in place this spring on Main Street from 9th Street all the way down to 16th Street. After this work is finished, the long-awaited paving of Main Street is slated to begin in June.

This past week, the city manager said he attended a construction meeting with Triton and officials from the West Virginia Division of Highways. He said the majority of the crosswalk corners near the Capitol Theatre were expected to be finished by week’s end.

“They’ve been able to complete three of four this week, with the fourth currently formed and ready for concrete next week,” Herron said of the pedestrian crosswalk corners at the intersection of 10th and Main streets. “They would have all been done but for rain on Wednesday. However now patrons – even with one corner yet to be done – can walk on a sidewalk from the 10th Street Parking Structure to the Capitol and need not be on the street.”

Other safety measures are being eyed during big events, Herron indicated.

“In addition, we will continue to light the intersection up with portable lights, and the Wheeling Police Department will monitor – beginning this weekend – that intersection and pedestrian activity during the times patrons are coming to and leaving the show.”

This weekend, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra performed at the Capitol on Friday night, and the Rock and Roll Doo Wop Show was scheduled for Saturday night at the theater. The Mountain East Conference Basketball Tournament also drew crowds to downtown Wheeling throughout the weekend at WesBanco Arena.

Herron said the city administration will continue to help coordinate efforts between the state and contractor with the police and event coordinators to make sure visitors are safe and that things go smoothly as the major revitalization project continues to unfold downtown.

“In light of the construction work and its time frames in that area, I will meet with Kelly Tucker and Chief Schwertfeger in the very near future to discuss the situation further,” Herron said.

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