WATERGAP — The state Department of Highways is continuing to look for ways to improve a stretch of U.S. 23 that has been plagued by motor vehicle crashes.
Sam Hale, branch manager for planning at Highway District 12, in Pikeville, said Thursday that the state is still in the “preliminary stages” of looking for ways to improve safety along the highway, between Town Branch Road and Route 80. At the current time, everything is still on the table.
“We don’t even know all the options, yet,” Hale said.
Some of the options could include constructing a frontage road, erecting a barrier wall or installing a traffic light at the Town Branch intersection. The department is looking to hire a consultant next month to help identify what options are possible in the area.
Hale said speeding, congestion and poor access are mostly to blame for accidents along the stretch of road.
But while no options have yet been ruled out, District 12 information officer Sara George said some options are more likely than others.
George said a stoplight at Town Branch would likely not have much impact, because the state’s studies have shown that the crashes are occurring at all points along the highway, not just at Town Branch. Similarly, she said a barrier wall would probably not address the issue because every accident in the area has involved traffic in the northbound lanes, adjacent to where vehicles are entering and exiting the road.
Hale said the state would use the consultant to identify what options would address the problem and that the public would be kept in the loop. He said there would be public hearings about the project before the state begins moving forward.
“We’ll definitely have public involvement,” Hale said.
Currently, the project is still in the design phase, and then there will be a need for the state to obtain rights-of-way and relocate utilities. In recent days, utility workers have been in the area to identify where their lines are.
“I don’t think you’re looking at construction until at least 2015,” Hale said.