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W.Va. 9 plan takes fewer homes

July 11, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia Division of Highway officials met Thursday with Jefferson County Commissioners to go over the latest proposed route for a new W.Va. 9.

Highway officials said the latest proposal, a four-lane road that will generally track the current W.Va. 9 corridor between Charles Town and Martinsburg, W.Va., will spare historic properties and more homes and businesses than an earlier route.

But Jefferson County Commissioner Edgar Ridgeway, whose home may be in the path of the project, criticized the highway officials for not looking closely enough at alternative routes.


Ridgeway suggested the highway officials locate the route farther south in Jefferson County.

Randy Epperly, director of road design for the state highway department, said that the traffic experts looked at a more southern route, but decided fewer motorists would use it.

"If you don't build it where people want to go, people won't use it," Epperly said.

Most motorists would still use the existing W.Va. 9 and eventually it would have to be expanded to four lanes to accommodate the traffic, Epperly said.

The county would then have two four-lane highways going east-west instead of just one, Epperly said.

Ridgeway also accused the state highway officials of deciding a route in secret, but allowing a few, "certain people" to know the route in advance so they could buy property along it.

Epperly and other county commissioners said that state highway officials had held a public meeting at the Cliffside Inn near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where the public could learn about the route.

"Well, I didn't know about it," Ridgeway said.

Epperly said he has no knowledge of people buying property on speculation where the highway is going to go.

Ridgeway asked if it was illegal for the state to buy lots in the Burr Industrial Park in advance of having a final decision on the route's corridor.

Epperly said it was not illegal and was commonly done. He said any of the proposed routes were going to go through the industrial park to provide access for the businesses.

The project is already months behind schedule and final route plans may not be completed for months.

Epperly said the state could begin buying properties along the proposed route next summer.

Under one proposed route, state highway officials had estimated that the road would go through about 140 homes and businesses.

Epperly said that the latest proposed route "substantially lowers" the number of homes that would be lost to the highway, but he said the number was not known.

W.Va. 9 is a winding stretch of mostly two-lane highway through the Eastern Panhandle.

The $110 million plan to improve it is more than 18 months behind schedule.

While some residents object to the highway's proposed location, others ask whether it is even necessary.

"No one's ever explained why we need this super highway," said Richard Latterell, a geneticist from Shepherdstown, W.Va., who attended Thursday's meeting.

Latterell said that the highway would add to the suburban sprawl, something many communities are trying to stop.

State highway officials said that the work is needed to make the route safer by reducing traffic on the overcrowded, winding, two-lane W.Va. 9.

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