Bath asks highway officials for pedestrian protections, gets mixed answers

by Trish Rudder

At January 2 Bath Town Council meeting , Mayor Scott Merki said the letter from the  state Division of Highways (DOH) regarding pedestrian crosswalks on U.S. 522 and reducing the speed limit on Wilkes Street was “perplexing.”

In prior phone conversations with the DOH chief engineer of operations, Joe Pack, about the lack of crosswalks and a lower speed limit on Wilkes Street, Merki said he was told of an engineering study being done to address these issues.

Bath Mayor Scott Merki.

U.S. 522 is a state-maintained roadway and the crosswalks were removed at Williams, Liberty and Market streets in June 2022 for repaving.

Since then, safety issues have been a concern and town business owners and residents complained to town officials about the lack of pedestrian crosswalks.

Merki wrote to the DOH on November 9, asking the state to reinstall those pedestrian crossings.

He also requested speed limit signs on the north and south side of Wilkes Street.

The letter of November 22 from the state transportation secretary and commissioner of highways, Jimmy Wriston, said an engineering study is to be completed by this spring and the town’s request for the crosswalks would be addressed following the study’s completion.

Merki said he feared someone would be hurt trying to cross U.S. 522 without a crosswalk.

He said he wanted more assistance from the town’s representatives in the West Virginia Legislature, and Merki asked and received approval from the council to send letters to Delegate George Miller and State Senator Charles Trump asking for their help.

Merki wrote in his letter: “We are asking for the engineering study to be expedited so the results will be known quickly, and improvements can be made before our main tourist season begins. The influx of tourists will mean more tourists walking across US-522 with no crosswalks, and more of a chance of a pedestrian being struck by a motorist.”

He also explained that the 25mph Wilkes Street signage is currently missing and that an exception to the WV state code be made to allow 15mph speed signs on Wilkes.

The street is narrow and many children walk to the park on Wilkes, Merki said.

“We understand that the WV state code states that without a school, the minimum speed limit allowed is 25 mph,” although DOH District Five Traffic Engineer, Kenneth Clohan stated that he agrees that 25mph is still too fast for Wilkes Street, Merki wrote.

Town officials expect to continue to discuss the issue.