DOT: New W.Va. 14 bridge better for motorists

MINERAL WELLS- After almost two months of operation, the new W.Va. 14 bridge and traffic patterns in Mineral Wells appear to be working out well for motorists.

The bridge, which opened in November, was the last piece in a three-phase construction project near Interstate 77 in Mineral Wells that began more than a decade ago. The bridge has been significant by eliminating a sharp bend in W.Va. 14 at W.Va. 21.

State highway officials have said the bridge provides better access to Interstate 77 for residents of Mineral Wells and Wirt County and addresses traffic issues.

The $9.4 million project was awarded in 2010 and opened in mid-November.

Brent Walker, spokesman with the state Department of Transportation, said it is still too early to have data to measure the effectiveness of the new traffic patterns, but the early indication is that it is working out well for people.

”All signs seem to indicate it is a more efficient and more direct route,” he said.

Highway officials are looking at possible minor modifications to the traffic pattern to better accommodate concerns from local businesses.

”We want to be sensitive to local businesses,” Walker said. ”Many of these businesses have been there for years.”

Issues being looked at include whether to close the old section of W.Va. 14 and 21 or leave it open to allow continued access to areas, including Rockport. The road has remained open.

”Right now, we are leaning toward not closing it down” Walker said. ”We don’t know yet, but most of the plans we have now center on not closing that down.”

Jay Parsons, chief of the Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department, said the new bridge has worked out for the department in reducing response times.

In not having to navigate the hill and horseshoe, the fire department has been able to cut out 1 to 2 minutes in response times between the Mineral Wells area and around the interstate, Parsons said.

”The bridge has been great,” Parsons said. ”It has provided easier access for everyone.”

Parsons said people are still using the roads that made up the old part of W.Va. 14 and 21. If that section remains open, he would like to see a traffic light at the old intersection in the horseshoe as motorists are not certain about how traffic should be moving in that section. He is fearful a wreck might happen there if nothing is done.

Beth Pifer of Pifer’s Service Center near the I-77 interchange said many customers are enjoying the new traffic patterns as they provide better access to the business.

”There is no more mud or construction crews through there anymore,” she said. ”The new bridge and roads have definitely helped the flow of traffic move a lot better.”

Their customers now have better access to the nearby McDonald’s restaurant, said Pifer.

A concern has been when people pull out of the business to get back on W.Va. 14 they have to be mindful of multiple lanes of traffic, Pifer said. However, with better access to McDonald’s there is better access to a road with a traffic light.

Pifer is glad the road toward the Rockport area has remained open. She is one of many residents who live out that way.

Residents have improved access without having to constantly wait on the highway traffic that is now taking the bridge as its main route, she said.

”It is a win-win for everyone,” Pifer said. ”Keeping that road open has been a perfect thing.”