State could ask truckers to use existing U.S. 522 even after first section of bypass opens

by Trish Rudder & Kate Shunney

Town of Bath Mayor Scott Merki and town officials have raised serious concerns about how traffic from a new U.S. 522 Bypass will get in and around downtown Berkeley Springs when it opens.

Division of Highways officials had previously said they expect to open the first section of the 522 Bypass this fall.

That bypass is being built from south of Sheetz to the area just north of Fairfax Street near The Pines, the old hospital.

A second highway project, awarded to a second contractor, will build the connecting portion of the bypass from its northern end all the way to U.S. 522 in the area of the sandmine. That project is not expected to be completed until 2026, highway officials have said.

Bath town officials have questioned if trucks and cars on a new bypass will have to divert through narrow town streets to get back onto 522.

Tractor trailer traffic could remain on U.S. 522 after the new 522 Bypass opens later this year.

Mayor Merki said he received an email from Daryl Cowles, regional representative for Governor Jim Justice, that he contacted the Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH) as Merki requested. The mayor had asked that trucks not be allowed to use the half-built bypass.

Merki had said recently that he had heard the bypass was to be open to trucks in the fall and that would become a safety issue.

In the May 7 Bath council meeting, Merki said Cowles received an answer from Jason Foster, West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) chief engineer, that “trucks will be signed to stay on 522 until the northern connector is complete. The interchange at WV Route 9 is where the remaining traffic will be signed back to 522.”

Merki said cars will be able to use the bypass before the second half is completed.

His concern was that proper signage is needed to direct the trucks to stay on the existing U.S. 522 that runs through town until the northern part of the bypass is completed.

It was decided in the town meeting that the West Virginia Truckers Association will be contacted to inform them of the necessity for truckers to continue to use 522 until the entire bypass is built.

Merki said he thought the truckers would be “on our side. They don’t want to get stuck” trying to maneuver the tight turns to get back to U.S. 522 by Fairfax Street or Martinsburg Road.

The mayor said the town will write to Charleston asking when they will provide the signage to direct the trucks.