Emergency officials ready for traffic delays

PARKERSBURG – Local emergency personnel are preparing for traffic disruptions next week due to planned road closures.

CSX Transportation crews will be replacing rails on the tracks above Sixth Street, beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday and ending at 5 p.m. Friday. The work requires large spikes to be shot into the railroad ties and could result in some of those spikes going through and on to the street beneath. Sixth Street will remain restricted to traffic flow, and all intersecting streets will be affected by closures and delays, including Garfield Avenue, Ann, Juliana, Market and Avery streets.

Belpre’s Main Street will be closed to traffic for the repairs on Monday and Tuesday.

Parkersburg fire Chief Eric Taylor said local emergency crews are ready to respond to issues throughout the city and already have planned for possible complications from the construction.

“We met with railroad and highway officials last week to foresee any problems. The closures are intended to be precautionary and should not disrupt emergency responses,” he said Friday.

Taylor said getting to emergencies should not be an issue for fire crews, despite warnings of lane closures and potential delays.

“There are three city fire stations that service that area, so we should have access from multiple routes,” he said, adding officials from both the fire department and the Parkersburg Police Department met with CSX and West Virginia Department of Highways representatives last week.

Taylor said crews are even prepared to deal with railroad-related emergencies, such as if a worker is injured while working on the elevated tracks of if there is a fire with equipment.

“Our tower truck downtown has a vertical reach of 100 feet. In the event of a problem, we should be able to access nearly all areas of the elevated rail from the road below,” he said.

Tim Brunicardi, director of marketing and public affairs for the Camden Clark Medical Center, said the hospital and ambulance service are prepared for the traffic disruptions. The hospital sits near the trestle and roads that will be shut down or have limited access during work on the railroad tracks.

“Whenever there is anticipated road construction, our primary concern is to make sure it does not impact our ability to provide emergency services as expeditiously as possible,” Brunicardi said Friday. “In order to do that, our ambulance service is made aware of impending road construction and develops contingency plans. Alternate routes have been created and posted for all emergency personnel.

“The bottom line is that the planned construction will have no impact on our ability to react to emergencies and transport patients in a timely manner,” he said.

Tim Thomas, general manager for the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority, said officials already have been warning riders there could be delays. The Transit Authority’s bus terminal opens onto Sixth Street right next to the trestle.

“The only way it will affect is in in exiting the terminal,” he said. “All of our buses will have to turn right.”

This means those buses heading to Vienna will travel several more blocks before coming down Eighth Street and heading to the hospital. Thomas said no pickup locations should be affected.

Thomas also said some of the bus schedules will be adjusted based upon CSX’s schedule of lane closures to try and avoid the worst traffic congestion.

“Hopefully the traffic won’t really affect us, but we are anticipating some delays,” he said.

Mayor Bob Newell said he expects an uptick in traffic across the Memorial Bridge as traffic is routed away from the Belpre Bridge and drivers seek to avoid the construction areas.

“It will be a significant inconvenience for people during that time,” he said. “If there are folks coming across the Belpre Bridge to go north, they would be better off using the Memorial Bridge.”