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House OKs $500,000 for North Raleigh Street extension

'Big spending battle' to decide outcome

'Big spending battle' to decide outcome

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? A $500,000 allocation for the North Raleigh Street extension in downtown Martinsburg is part of legislation that was approved this week by Congress, but a "big spending battle" between lawmakers and President Bush is shaping up, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's spokesman said.

Capito, R-W.Va., announced Thursday that the allocation for the project meant to relieve traffic congestion was kept in the Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill approved by House members this week.

"The Raleigh Street extension is a necessary improvement project that provides needed updates to local infrastructure," Capito said in a press release. "I'm happy to see that this funding was included in the final conference agreement."

Capito spokesman Jonathan Coffin said the House vote on Wednesday night fell short of being veto-proof "by a little bit."

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos was happy to hear the bill had advanced, but didn't want to celebrate just yet.

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"We just have to wait and see ... It's my understanding that nothing is going to be done until the budget is signed for the upcoming year," Karos said of the federal spending bill.

The mayor said he would be even more happy if U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd is successful in leading an ongoing effort to reallocate $13 million originally designated for a proposed Martinsburg bypass project. The Berkeley County Commission earlier this year voted to back the city on the reallocation.

Estimated to cost $32 million, the 1.2-mile extension of Raleigh Street will connect West Race Street in Martinsburg's historic district to Edwin Miller Boulevard on the city's north end.

Along with matching money from the state and more than $10 million already identified, Karos said construction could begin late next year or early in 2009.

Dozens of years in the making, the Raleigh Street project is being designed and Karos said archeological studies have been completed.

"We've been persistent about it," Karos said of lobbying state and federal officials about the road. "They know that it's a must."

Aside from relieving congestion and improving EMS response throughout the city and outlying areas, Karos said the project likely would spur economic development.

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