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W.Va. to revisit bypass plans

August 07, 2000

W.Va. to revisit bypass plans



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - State Division of Highways officials say they will draw up two more possible routes for a proposed Martinsburg W.Va. 9 bypass.

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The additional proposed routes for the state-financed bypass - estimated at between $78 million and $106 million - are an attempt to alleviate concerns some people have about the project.

The highways department will try to develop two routes that will go further to the east than four earlier routes that were proposed, Randy Epperly, the state's deputy highway engineer, said Monday.

Some residents who have been concerned about the project have questioned whether a more easterly route can be developed that would require fewer homes to be torn down, Epperly said. Among the four routes that were initially proposed, the highways department said it is favoring a route east of Martinsburg that will require 40 homes and about 25 businesses to be torn down.

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Epperly said it is too early to tell whether going further east will be beneficial because the state-financed studies have just started.

When highway officials announced the effort, they also indicated that it will delay the project and add to its design costs.

The highways department was hoping to have an environmental assessment report on the project completed sometime this summer, but it will now probably be delayed until late October, Epperly said.

Expanding the design work will probably increase the cost of the project by several hundred thousand dollars, he said.

"We are committed to addressing the concerns expressed by West Virginians. However, residents need to understand that going back and forth and looking at alternatives for the bypass is expensive and time-consuming, but necessary to get the best highway possible," said State Highway Engineer Joe Deneault.

Two months ago, a citizens coalition concerned about how the bypass would affect quality of life around Martinsburg said they wanted the project stopped until the state involved more input from citizens.

Cheryl Long, an organizer for the Martinsburg Bypass Coalition, said she is concerned about how the bypass would affect the quiet, serene community around her house off Eagle School Road. Although highway officials say the bypass is needed to relieve congestion downtown, Long said she is also worried how the project would affect farms in the area.

The road could leave some farmers land-locked and unable to get to other areas they farm, said Long, adding that the farms that are left in the county are a unique snapshot of the area's past and should be saved.

Long said she is encouraged by the highway department's decision to look at other alternatives, but she wishes they would have personally contacted her group to let them know.

"I would like to believe that the DOH is sincere in what they are saying," Long said.

Long said she is still not convinced that the bypass would solve any traffic problems in Martinsburg. She believes the town will continue to see heavy traffic in congested areas such as around the Martinsburg Mall.

Regarding the two new routes the highways department will consider, one will likely consider the construction of a new intersection on Interstate 81 just north of the Berkeley Springs exit near the Quad/Graphics plant, Epperly said.

Bringing traffic to that intersection may reduce the number of houses that would have to be torn down around the Skyline Park subdivision, which is located just off U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg, Epperly said.

The other route will connect into the current Berkeley Springs interchange like the earlier proposed routes did, Epperly said.

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