They've never been that way. They've always been one way.
And that's, well, one-way.
Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott mentioned several times during his campaign that he believes re-establishing Main and Market streets as two-way roadways would improve an individual's experience in the city's downtown district, and it would slow traffic, especially on Main Street, where cars and trucks tend to exceed the 25 mph speed limit by more than 15 mph.
The conversation, in fact, has reached the state level as the mayor has spoken with WVDOH District Engineer Gus Suwaid.
"It is something we are taking a look at," he said. "The first step is to perform a traffic study, and that is something that will take place in the near future."
Such a change is not as easy as painting a few double-yellow lines in the middle of the streets, though. Traffic signals would need replaced and parking scenarios examined, and how to handle the flow of vehicles traveling W.V. Route 2 is an issue, too, because of the large trucks and semi-tractor trailers. One a upon a time ago the state of West Virginia had a plan to bypass the downtown district completely but the project that erased the "Goosetown" portion of East Wheeling fell short of offering access to the north because of cost.
The DOH attempted to solve the issue by adding a ramp to Interstate 70 before the westbound entrance to Wheeling Tunnel, but it's clumsy, often dangerous, and it's unusual because of the offered left-side entrance to the highway.
Two-way traffic on Main and Market streets would alter the way lifelong residents see the downtown because what's always been on the right has always been on the right, and the same goes for the left side, too, but Mayor Elliott and Jake Dougherty from Wheeling Heritage insist such a move would improve the "walkability" in the area.
What's "walkability?" Exactly what it sounds like, actually.
At this time, one's ability to trek from 10th Street to 14th Street is a relatively easy stroll, unless, of course, you wish to cross the street. Although naysayers often insist the downtown is empty and desolate, the district is much busier than most expect when visiting the area for the first time in a while. During the work day, finding a parking spot is difficult for various reasons, and when traffic reaches certain stretches along Main and Market – from the Horne's Building to 14th on Main and adjacent to Market Plaza on Market – throttles are floored, and the races are on.
Sure, there are crosswalks complete with the pedestrian buttons, but far too frequently does a walker or bicyclist have to fear the running of red lights.
"The downtown was changed a long time ago to favor vehicular traffic," Elliott explained. "With the development that is taking place in our downtown right now, many more people will be living and working in this area, so it's important for us to make the changes that will improve the atmosphere for the people who are walking.
"And we have been working with the state so the streetscaping project can become a reality, so when that does take place, it might be the best time for this kind of change to take place," he said. "The reaction to 12th Street becoming a two-way street again in the downtown has been very positive, and I believe it will be again if the same change is made on Main and Market."
(Photo by Steve Novotney)