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Group wants input into bypass route

June 05, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An organization concerned about how a proposed multi-million dollar bypass around Martinsburg would affect the quality of life in Berkeley County wants the project stopped until the state gets more input from citizens.

Cheryl Long, an organizer for the Martinsburg Bypass Coalition, complained that she was not informed that the road would be coming near her house.

Long told more than 50 people at a meeting of the coalition Monday night that she is worried about how the road will affect the quiet, serene community around her house off Eagle School Road.

Another woman in the crowd encouraged everyone to sign a petition requesting that the state come up with a better alternative.

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"We don't want the quality of our life disrupted. We are going to fight this to the bitter end," Long said.

Two state lawmakers, Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, and Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, also attended the meeting at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.

Although the state is required to hold public hearings on projects like the bypass, Unger said he is concerned that state officials "don't do much hearing."

The state Division of Highways is proposing to build a bypass east of Martinsburg to relieve traffic congestion as W.Va. 9 runs through town.

Initially, the state was considering four possible routes for the road, ranging in cost from $78 million to $106 million. The routes were identified as Alternative A, B, C and D and were up to six miles long.

The highways department selected a route that combined routes B and C, said Division of Highways spokesman David E. Clevenger, who attended Monday's meeting.

The selected route will require about 40 homes and about 25 businesses to be torn down, Clevenger said.

Alternative A, by comparison, would have required 87 homes and 21 businesses to be torn down, highway officials said.

Clevenger told the crowd that plans are not final for the bypass, and that it's not too late for citizens to comment. Design changes to new highways have been made after construction has begun, he said.

"This is still early in the process. There is nothing in stone on this alignment," Clevenger said.

Public hearings are planned on environmental impact studies now being done, Clevenger said.

The coalition introduced several speakers who covered different aspects of the proposed bypass.

One speaker, Larry Wright, who works as computer network engineer, described the noise the road could cause. A car traveling 65 mph generates about 70 decibels, which is just slightly lower than an airplane, Wright said.

"It's going to be up there. I think it's going to take away from the quiet that people move up here for," Wright said.

Before the meeting began, coalition members taped a map of the bypass on the wall and put a sign above it that read, "The road to ruin."

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