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New exit eyed as best option

June 11, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission put its stamp of approval Thursday on one of seven proposed routes to alleviate traffic around City Hospital.

The move came two days after a federal highway transportation bill allotted more than $7 million for improvements in the Eastern Panhandle.

The route - a diamond-shaped exit off Interstate 81 - also is the thoroughfare preferred by Gov. Cecil Underwood, the Martinsburg City Council, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, state Division of Highways and 50 different businesses, said Gene Leonard, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Chamber's Exit 14 task force.

The state last month held public hearings on the seven proposed routes. Public comments will be taken until the end of the month, but Leonard said the exit has received the most support so far.

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"In terms of safety, in terms of a long-term solution, this one nails it down completely," Leonard said Thursday. "It will also allow this area greater access to get on and off the interstate."

President Clinton on Tuesday signed the transportation bill, which allows more than $5 million for the project and about $2 million for improvements to U.S. 340 in Jefferson County.

The state will contribute nearly $2 million more for the Dry Run Road improvements near the hospital.

"This is the greatest thing in the world when you have a project like this and it doesn't cost us a dime," Leonard said.

The route would provide for a new exit off I-81. It would straighten out Dry Run Road, move Welltown Road about 250 feet west, raze the existing two-lane bridge on Dry Run Road and construct a new three-lane bridge, Leonard said.

The plan would take out nine properties and a small portion of the hospital's parking lot, Leonard said.

After the comment period, the Department of Highways will make a recommendation. Construction could begin as early as December.

Other proposed routes run from Old Mill Road to West King Street, from Dry Run Road to Tuscarora Road and from Tavern Road to W.Va. 9.

Since the hospital's construction in 1972, Old Mill Road and Dry Run roads have provided the most direct route between the hospital and I-81, although they weren't meant to be main access roads.

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