FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va.—Thanks to the dramatic increase in visitation to America's newest national park, motor vehicle traffic in and around Fayetteville is building remarkably, leading officials and business leaders to recommend exploring safety measures that could include traffic signals.
Sharon Rynard, whose commercial property on US-19 sees some of the highest traffic in the region, says she and tenant businesses have witnessed an observable increase in the passage of vehicles in front of the property and on the parkway leading out of the national park.
"It's certainly like nothing we've ever seen," Rynard said, "but that's because we've never had this incredible traffic. It appears to have doubled, but this is a new reality."
Delegate Austin Haynes (R-Fayette) said his office is looking into remedies and potential safety initiatives to deal with the increase, including installing traffic signals.
"I don't think anybody really realized what a national park would do," Haynes said of the growth, which jumped in 2021 when Congress announced the creation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. "I don't think anyone really understood."
Haynes said he's been consulting with officials from the West Virginia Department of Highways regarding traffic issues on the US-19 expressway in Fayetteville and north of the New River Gorge Bridge as a result of the creation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
"I've been working with the DOH to find a remedy in Fayetteville and on the north side of the bridge near the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, where you have the Endless Wall Trail and a lot of traffic coming out of the side roads onto US-19," the delegate said.
"Over the last several months, we've seen an uptick in accidents because of the influx of traffic, but I'm confident we can get something done—stoplights or warning lights for traffic coming into the area or speed limits of some nature."
Rynard said international guests visiting businesses on her property routinely now as word of the park spreads, and tourists looking for the New River Gorge Bridge turn around in her parking lot, which is the nearest to the landmark bridge on the Fayetteville end.
She says she'd welcome a traffic light at the intersection in front of her property where tourists from the parkway that travels the gorge beneath the bridge rejoin US-19 traffic.
According to the department, US-19 saw an average of 15,952 vehicles daily in 2021, and further statistics are not yet publicly available. The scenic parkway route through the gorge saw an average of 189 daily vehicles.
"It's wonderful to see all these tourists arriving, but we need to ensure we're showing them a good time and a safe time," Rynard said.
Haynes says that despite the difficulty and safety issues the traffic has caused, the benefits are revolutionizing the area.
"It's been a blessing for us because we've seen a lot of growth, Haynes said.
Mysterious stone face attracting curious in New River Gorge
An enigmatic stone face carved into mossy sandstone along the rim of the New River Gorge is attracting increased attention as tourism grows in the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. Though its origins are popularly regarded as a mystery, the bas-relief countenance was likely carved in the 1950s, and the son of its creator may still live in the area near Fayetteville, West Virginia. READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
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