UPDATE: Neighbors Demand Fixes to Route 35 Curve

By: Brooks Jarosz; Anna Baxter Email
By: Brooks Jarosz; Anna Baxter Email
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UPDATE 5/20/13 @ 7 p.m.
PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Neighbors were pushing for action to avoid more deadly consequences along one stretch of roadway.

Route 35 dominated the discussion at the Putnam County Transportation meeting Monday morning.

It's in response to a tractor trailer crash earlier this month. The truck flipped over near the Buffalo Bridge in Fraziers Bottom, spilling chemicals. It's been the sight of several major crashes in recent years.

"Fortunately we didn't have any fatalities or any major environmental issues -- this time," EMS Director Frank Chapman said.

Concerns about the curve hit a new high following the recent crash with many drivers wanting answers and ultimately a permanent solution.

"When you have three wrecks in a week at a time and on and on -- the record shows for itself that this is a problem that needs to be repaired," neighbor Steve Fellure said.

The plan to finish Route 35 with tolls was shot down last year, but the transportation meeting had neighbors suggesting the DOH pay to reroute at least a couple miles to do away with the dangers.

"There's enough money in shrubbery on I-64 to finish that," one neighbor said. "There probably is and really I wish I had a bigger say in what got done."

However, a DOH employee at the meeting didn't have the answers many were looking for. There's still no funding to fix the problem and even he admitted, it's an unsafe roadway.

"It is dangerous and at best we try to be safe," DOH employee James Smithers said. "There's really no place to go -- there's no escape."

That means long lines when crashes occur and neighbors say drivers then get lost on the detour.

"We need some type of signage to say when the road is closed," another neighbor said. "Because we know it's going to happen again. We all know it's going to happen again."

They're also pushing for police presence, patrolling and other visible changes to alert drivers to what seems to be a permanent problem.

Plans to widen the entire highway have been on hold for quite some time. State officials wanted the highway to be four lanes from Putnam County to Point Pleasant but there isn't enough funding.

It would take nearly $200 million to widen a 14-mile stretch of Route 35.

UPDATE 5/20/13 @ 9 a.m.
PUTNAM COUNTY,W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Crashes along Route 35 in Putnam County have neighbors living along the road concerned about safety.

A couple of dozen people attended the Putnam County Roads and Transportation meeting early Monday morning at the old courthouse in Winfield to share their safety concerns.

Route 35 was added to the agenda after a tractor trailer rollover earlier this month. The accident happened at the Buffalo Bridge. The crash closed the road for almost 24 hours because chemicals in the truck were leaking.

People who attended Monday's meeting asked the DOH what was being done to improve the dangerous portions of Route 35. The community members asked if Paul Maddox, West Virginia Secretary of Transportation will attend the next meeting to update them on what the state is doing.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There is a fallout from a tractor-trailer crash that closed a busy road and created a chemical concern.

A truck carrying chemicals rolled over on U.S. 35 in Fraziers Bottom near the Buffalo Bridge Friday morning. The barrels of chemicals began leaking. It took crews nearly 24 hours to clean up the scene and get the road back open.

One state lawmaker is calling for action to keep this from happening again.

Delegate Jim Butler tells WSAZ.com he wants to see action after seeing catastrophic tractor-trailer crashes. He is calling for a community meeting with the Division of Highways. Butler says he wants rumble strips and flashing lights as a short-term solution installed immediately.

"The time you get to this sign, it's already too late to get on the brakes hard to get around that curve," Delegate Jim Butler said. "We've had several fatalities in this area, so I think we need to talk about our priorities when we're talking about building highways."

While Route 35 is marked by several signs and reflectors, neighbors say they're not always a help, especially to new drivers.

Betty Fellure has lived on the curve for more than a decade and has seen the wrecks time and time again.

"It's just, it's sad, it's really sad," Fellure said. "They put up more signs, which is more confusing because new people are which way, which way?"

In April, a log truck rolled over. In September, a woman had to be cut from a car following a truck crash. In October, a cattle truck flipped and just last week a chemical spill.

Fellure says she sees and hears crashes in her front yard almost weekly. Now, she's pressing other to help fix the ongoing safety and traffic problems that's frustrating not just her, but other drivers everyday.

"Someone just needs to be here and be in my place sometimes," Fellure said. "When you walk out in your barnyard and there's two ladies laying there and car upside down and two other cars smashed into each other, and then you look up and traffic is backed up, too ..."

Butler has already met with legislative leaders to help push Route 35 as a top priority. WSAZ.com spoke with EMS workers who say they've worked with the DOH to try and warn drivers of the curve, but they admit they're seeing the same type of crash time and time again.

"I think the people in the community are fed up and we're going to make enough noise to make something happen," Butler said.

The Division of Highways says speed often times plays a factor in those wrecks. Records show at least 10 serious wrecks at the curve near the Buffalo Bridge since 2010.

Plans to upgrade Route 35 to four lanes from Putnam County to Point Pleasant in Mason County remain on hold.

The reason is there's not enough money, according to DOH officials. Currently, 14 miles of the road are just two lanes.

The DOH says it would take nearly $200 million to complete the road.

State officials wanted to add toll booths to pay for the road. Mason County officials, however, said no to that plan.

So far, no alternative funding sources have been proposed. Repairs to the two-lane section of the road are happening now.

The safety issues along Route 35 will be on the agenda at the next Putnam County Roads and Transportation meeting. It's at 8:30 p.m. Monday in the county commission chambers inside the old county courthouse. It's open to the public, and several people are expected to be there to voice their concerns about the road.

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