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Wetzel School Bus Routes Hit by Heavy Drilling Truck Traffic

Some roads in Wetzel County have been damaged by gas drilling truck traffic to the extent that  they're unsafe for school buses. Credit: Ed Wade/The Sierra Club
Some roads in Wetzel County have been damaged by gas drilling truck traffic to the extent that they're unsafe for school buses. Credit: Ed Wade/The Sierra Club
September 21, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A local emergency medical technician says natural gas drilling in Wetzel County has damaged roads so much that it's occasionally unsafe for school buses to take their normal routes.

Ray Renaud is a Wetzel County emergency medical technician who handles oil and gas-related road issues for local emergency services. He says at times, two or three rural school bus routes have been unsafe for the buses to use, because of damage caused by the large number of heavy trucks.

"These are very limited-access highways, not much more than one lane to start with,” he stresses. “And typically what you have is, one of the shoulders will totally give way."

An official with the state Department of Transportation insists that drilling traffic is not causing safety issues for school buses. He says the state checks the roads before drilling starts, and requires that road conditions be as good when drilling is finished.

The Wetzel County Schools' transportation office refused to comment, although an official said bus drivers always have the right to refuse to take their normal route if weather or any other road condition makes it unsafe.

According to Renaud, that's how the process has worked – including on roads with damage from heavy truck traffic.

"The bus driver usually is the one that initiates the action,” he explains. “He has the authority to not run a road."

Everyone contacted for this report said the drilling companies have been responsive when an issue has come up. For example, the drillers try to keep their trucks off the roads at certain times of day to make way for the school buses.

Renaud says he knows of "10 or so" sections of Wetzel County road that are unsafe because of drilling traffic. He says one very steep hill has an intersection with a main artery at the base – and a drilling truck fails to stop there every couple of months.

Road conditions are a topic of local concern, says Steve Conlon, a farmer and activist.

"The only roads that haven't been impacted are the roads that they can't use with the big trucks," Conlon maintains.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV