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Hearing draws mix of opinions on W.Va. 9

March 10, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The first public hearing on the state's proposal to build a new W.Va. 9 was held Wednesday and comments ran the gamut.

Larry Crouse, of Kearneysville, walked into the hearing at Wright Denny Elementary School ready to read a lengthy speech he wrote about the new road.

Unlike past public hearings in which participants read their comments aloud to the audience and state highway officials, they were told to make their comments to a record keeper at the back of a room.

"I feel like I'm just talking to a wall," said Crouse.

Crouse said he telephoned a member of Common Sense Route 9, a citizens group that has expressed concerns about the road, and told them not to bother coming to the hearing.

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Crouse was one of several people who expressed concerns about a curve in the new road near the Traveler's Rest historic area in Kearneysville. The speed limit on the new four-lane highway will be 65 mph, and Crouse said he is worried about meeting other traffic in the curve at that speed.

The layout of the road is shown on a series of maps, and Crouse said he thinks the curve is divided between two maps so people would not notice it.

"Why would anyone want to replace old bad highway with a new bad highway?" said Crouse, whose house and woodworking shop will be taken for the $110 million freeway.

Barry Johnson told highway officials he is worried about being able to see and hear the new road from his Quail Ridge subdivision, just east of Crouse's house near the line dividing Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

Johnson, treasurer of the Quail Ridge homeowners association, proposed straightening the curve to which Crouse referred and looping the road to the east, making it pass by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Martinsburg.

Norse Angus, environmental analyst for the West Virginia Division of Highways, said that would be a major reworking of the proposed route and could set the process back another year.

Planning for the road has been in the works for 10 years, and Angus said highway officials "have to draw the line somewhere" in determining where the road will go.

Meanwhile, people in Berkeley County want the road built now, said Martinsburg attorney Hoy Shingleton, who attended the hearing to represent members of the Eastern Panhandle Business Association.

Shingleton said the road was great when it was built decades ago, but it's simply overloaded with traffic.

"We just have to build the thing," said Shingleton, who added highway planners are "never going to satisfy 100 percent of the people."

Highway officials are collecting public comments as they move into the final parts of the design process.

A second public hearing will be held today from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of next year.

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