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Plans for Martinsburg intersection weighed

December 14, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Rapid development around the Martinsburg Mall and the recent expansion of Wal-Mart have dumped heavy traffic onto the intersection of Rocky Lane and Winchester Avenue, and state highway officials are considering building a new intersection to accommodate traffic.

But not everyone likes what is being proposed.

Depending on which proposal the state Division of Highways chooses, two houses could be torn down, yards of some homes could shrink or traffic flow could be rerouted, according to highway planners.

Resident Ben Copenhaver said one of the alternative routes being considered by the highways department would divert Rocky Lane traffic directly in front of his house on Winchester Avenue.

Copenhaver said he and his wife, Georgina, bought their house at 668 Winchester Ave. because it was close to Winchester Avenue Elementary School and their parents' homes. They are first-time home buyers and are looking forward to starting a family next year.

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Now Copenhaver said he worries whether the house will be a good one in which to raise children. He said lights from cars on Rocky Lane will shine directly into his house at night they pass through the new intersection.

"It's going to be like living in the middle of New York City, it looks to me," Copenhaver said at a public meeting on the project at Winchester Avenue Elementary School Tuesday afternoon.

Several other residents who could be affected by the project also attended the meeting.

Deneen and Ron Hazlett said their apartment at 661 Winchester Ave. could be torn down if the state goes with "Alternative D-1," a $470,000 intersection that would be constructed about halfway between Rocky Lane and Buxton Street. The couple's child is autistic and may not adapt well if they are forced to move from their home, said Deneen Hazlett.

"We really don't want to move," she said. "They haven't really told us anything. I think it's because we are renters."

State highway engineers have come up with nine proposals, one of which is doing nothing at all.

But highway officials say traffic has increased heavily on the narrow road, which connects Winchester Avenue with the back of the Martinsburg Mall.

The mall and commercial operations such as the Bardon concrete plant are adding more vehicles to the road, according to highways department.

Bardon concrete trucks have difficulty turning in the narrow intersection and often have to use both lanes of Winchester Avenue to get through the area, said Bob Amtower, director of engineering for the Division of Highways.

Alternative A is the "no-build" plan. But highway officials say they fear congestion would only worsen if no improvements are made.

Alternative B would involve cutting a center section out of Rocky Lane that crosses the Winchester and Western Railroad. Then both ends of the road would be closed with cul de sacs. The plan would reduce congestion on the road, but motorists would have to find other ways into the mall and other areas, highway officials said.

Alternative C would make traffic on Rocky Lane one-way to the mall, but it would still require motorists to find other ways from the mall, highway officials said.

Alternatives D-1, D-2, E-1 and E-2 would include construction of a new intersection that would improve traffic efficiency, according to highway officials.

D-1 and D-2 would be located in the same area - a short distance south of the current intersection - while the other two would be closer to the existing intersection.

The last two alternatives involve expanding the current "Y" shaped intersection, but that is not as efficient, Amtower said.

Martinsburg City Council member Richard Yauger, who attended the meeting, said the council seems to favor Alternative E-1, one of the proposals calling for a new intersection. In that plan, one house would be taken and the lawn of a doctor's office would be affected.

"Of course that could change at any moment. That looks like the best at the present time," Yauger said.

Local residents can send written comments to the Division of Highway for the next 30 days on the proposal.

The department could make a decision by February, Amtower said.

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