Officials side with truckers; U.S. 522 truck ban unlikely

| 7/22/2005

There’s good news for truckers who use U.S. 522 in West Virginia – a vocal minority that wanted big rigs banned from the federal highway was basically shut down this week when city, county and state officials sided with truckers.

Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, said it is a classic example of truckers coming together and speaking up when they needed to.

OOIDA Board Member John Taylor of Cross Junction, VA, was a major player in the events at the Thursday, July 21, meeting. Taylor lives about three miles from the West Virginia border and about 12 miles from the town of Berkeley Springs, WV, which is where the vocal minority lives.

“It’s a pretty done deal, as I see it, that the trucks are not going to be banned from 522 by the state of West Virginia,” he said.

In addition to support at the meeting from local, county and state officials who oppose the truck ban, Taylor said that there was forward movement on a suggestion to build a bypass around Berkeley Springs, giving truckers and other traffic a four-lane option.

Taylor said there were about 80 to 85 people at the Thursday meeting – including the Berkeley Springs mayor, Morgan County commissioners and state legislators. There was also a handful of the Berkley Springs residents who started the whole ruckus about trucks on “their” section of U.S. 522.

Virtually everyone at the meeting supported the idea of a bypass, except the group of Berkeley Springs residents.

“What they have is a traffic problem, not a truck problem,” Taylor said. “It’s just too much traffic for a two-lane road in a little town that’s got one main street going through the middle of it.”

The group of Berkeley Springs residents started pushing several weeks ago for the state to ban big rigs from the stretch of U.S. 522 that runs through their town. They have said that they believe the trucks are a safety threat on the highway and that truckers use the route to avoid a weigh station on nearby Interstate 81.

Taylor had a different take on the situation, and it comes down to economics.

“Many of these people have moved into this little town in the last eight to 10 years from larger cities and they would like to make this a little mountain retreat of their own,” Taylor said. “They want to continue to funnel the cars down a two-lane road for 19 miles simply to have them come through their little town in hopes that they’ll stop and deal with them.”

Despite the complaints of some Berkeley Springs residents, officials said they would pursue a bypass. The next step is to gather as many comments as they can in support of the bypass idea.

Taylor said Morgan County Commissioner Bob Ford told the people at the meeting that he wants to personally deliver the comments to U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Ford and other area officials hope that Byrd’s position on the Appropriations Committee could help secure some federal funding for a bypass.

“They need to hear from our OOIDA members in West Virginia and any truckers that drive that route,” Taylor said.

There is no specific deadline, but Taylor it would be a good idea to send written comments as soon as possible to help keep the issue “on the front burner.”

Comments may be faxed to the county commissioner at (304) 258-8545 or mailed to:

Commissioner Bob Ford
83 Fairfax St.
PO Box 28
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411.

Comments may be faxed to Sen. Byrd at (304) 343-7144 or mailed to:

Sen. Robert Byrd
300 Virginia St. Suite 2630
Charleston, WV 25301

– By Coral Beach, staff editor