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Plan calls for widening W.Va. stretch of I-81

April 20, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Design work will begin immediately to expand 26 miles of Interstate 81 from four to six lanes in Berkeley County, Gov. Cecil Underwood's office said Monday.

The first section to be widened is a stretch of about three miles between the King Street and W.Va. 9 exits.

Carol Melling, director of public affairs for the West Virginia Division of Highways, said five bridges in Berkeley County would need to be expanded or reconstructed before the highway could be widened.

It is too early to determine when construction on the interstate expansion could begin, but bridge work could begin in 1999, Melling said.

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Final plans for bridge expansions are slated for completion this summer.

"Generally, it depends on the complexity of the projects to determine how long it will take," Melling said. "We're assuming a number of these projects could be ready to go to construction by 1999, depending on funding available."

The five bridges to be widened or replaced are at DuPont Road and at the south Martinsburg, King Street, north Martinsburg and Falling Waters interchanges.

Members of the Berkeley County Planning Commission said the expansion can only help the county. They don't believe the construction will hurt business.

"I think it's going to have a positive impact because of the amount of industry that is coming into the area," said commission member Charles Daniels.

Members of the commission questioned why the governor's office is focusing on the interstate when other Berkeley County roads are more in need of improvements.

"I think we should do something about W.Va. 9 before we do anything with I-81," said Berkeley County Planning Commission member Fred Gantt.

Personnel at the governor's office and the Division of Highways could not say on Monday how long the construction could take, how much it will cost or how it will be funded.

"There will certainly be some federal funding involved here, since it's an interstate highway," Melling said. "There was talk about using our bond money."

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