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W.Va.9, I-81 route plans scrutinized

May 27, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - To accommodate Berkeley County's rapid development - and the traffic that comes with it - officials have been looking at alternate routes to alleviate congestion on W.Va. 9 and improve access to City Hospital in Martinsburg from Interstate 81.

At two public hearings Tuesday to discuss the projects, residents in Berkeley County supported road improvements, although opinions differed on the proposed routes.

The proposed W.Va. 9 project would provide an alternate four-lane route from I-81 in Martinsburg to U.S. 522 in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., using one road or a combination of existing and new roads.

Many Hedgesville, W.Va., residents support the concept but not the route, which would raze homes and family farms.

"According to this map, my home is going to be history," said Ron Brown of Hedgesville. "Why can't they just bring it (south) where there's only a couple of shacks and a couple mobile homes?"


Judi Collison, of Jones Springs, would not be affected by the proposed route, but doesn't want to see anyone lose their property, she said.

"I think we need a new road. W.Va. 9 is a dangerous road. But I'd hate to see people lose their homes," Collison said.

The proposed route would also run through Ralph Michael's 37 acres in Hedgesville. He has lived and raised cattle on the farm for 38 years. One son built a home on the family farm and another was planning to build a home.

"It's sort of a tradition in farming communities. When the kids grow up, the father cuts off lots to keep them in the same community. This is blowing it for them," said Donald Shear of Hedgesville, a friend of Michael's.

Matt Wilkerson, senior archaeologist with the state Division of Highways, said nothing is definite. The point of a public hearing is to address concerns, he said, and no action will be taken soon.

"We're not even talking about having the next round of public meetings on this until June 1999," he said.

If the public rallies against it, the route could be reworked before the Department of Transportation gives approval, officials said.

A second public hearing for the W.Va. 9 expansion will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today in the cafeteria at Berkeley Springs High School.

Dealing with hospital traffic

Also on Tuesday, residents voiced opinions on seven possible routes for City Hospital traffic.

One proposed route runs from Old Mill Road to West King Street, one runs from Dry Run Road to Tuscarora Road, two routes run from Tavern Road to W.Va. 9, and three would require a new interchange on I-81.

Fran Ridgeway of Martinsburg took her time reviewing the proposed projects and supports them.

"It's not going to affect me at all," she said. "(One project) might take some of my son's front yard, but I'm for progress."

Since the hospital's construction in 1972, Old Mill and Dry Run roads have provided the most direct routes between the hospital and I-81.

According to a study by the Division of Highways, ambulances are sometimes run off the narrow, curvy Old Mill Road.

Sarah Townsend is one of several people who attended Tuesday's public meeting. The wife of a doctor, she's heard stories about the ambulances maneuvering on Dry Run Road en route to the hospital. She supports a new I-81 interchange over the other suggested routes.

"A new exit is needed desperately," Townsend said. "We see the ambulances trying to negotiate the hill on Old Mill Road in the winter when it's icy and it's just pitiful."

David Clevenger, an engineer for the Division of Highways, said the department isn't leaning toward any specific proposal.

After a 30-day comment period, the Department of Highways will make a recommendation, Clevenger said.

Depending on the project, construction costs range from $3.3 million to $5.8 million, which will be funded by the Department of Highways. Construction could begin as early as December, Clevenger said.

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