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Proposal would widen U.S. 340 in W.Va.

August 15, 2000

Proposal would widen U.S. 340 in W.Va.



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia Division of Highways on Tuesday proposed widening U.S. 340 from Charles Town south to the Virginia line from two lanes to four lanes, a project that is expected to cost between $24.5 million and $41 million.

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Although State Highway Engineer Joe Deneault could not provide numbers, he said the volume of traffic on the approximately five-mile stretch of road warrants the freeway.

"Research has shown us that the majority of residents want this road, but do not have much information about it," Deneault said.

U.S. 340 cuts through Jefferson County, linking motorists with Virginia at the southern and northern tips of the county.

The segment of U.S. 340 between Harpers Ferry and Charles Town is already four lanes. At Harpers Ferry, the road narrows to two lanes as it crosses the Shenandoah River and remains two lanes through Virginia. It widens again to four lanes in Maryland.

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On the southern end, the highway has two lanes for a short distance in Virginia before widening to four lanes.

The highways department is considering eight different routes for the expanded section of U.S. 340, Deneault said.

Some of the routes would run near historic areas, which could become an issue, Deneault said during a briefing on the project in the Jefferson County meeting room Tuesday afternoon.

Some of the proposed routes would run near such historic areas as the Olive Boy Farm, Wayside Farm and the Rippon Lodge, according to Division of Highways plans.

Another design has been drawn up for a route that would avoid all of the historic areas, Deneault said. That route, however, would have to be longer and would cost $16 million more than the cheapest route, according to Deneault.

Despite its cost, the route that would avoid the historic areas "must be given detailed consideration," he said.

"We understand the concerns surrounding the historic areas and will try to do anything possible to keep these valuable sites for everyone to enjoy," Deneault said. "Certainly at this point, we have not prejudged any of the alternatives."

At the moment, West Virginia does not have money for the highway project, Deneault said. The state could get funding from the federal government, but Congress is not expected to consider another major federal highway bill until 2003, Deneault said.

Del. Dale Manuel and Del. John Doyle agreed that funding for the project could take several years.

The state probably has already committed any federal highway money it has available, said Doyle, D-Jefferson.

Depending on the route selected, between one and eight houses and from two to four businesses would have to be torn down to make way for the road, according to the plans.

The highways department probably will hold informational workshop meetings in October to provide area residents with information about the various route proposals, Deneault said. Hearings also will be held, he said.

The highway department could select a route by September or October, Deneault said.

The project is one of several the highway department is planning or has started in the Eastern Panhandle.

The department will spend at least $16 million to expand Interstate 81 to six lanes in Berkeley County and is proposing a W.Va. 9 bypass around Martinsburg that would cost between $78 million and $106 million.

Another highway project, widening W.Va. 9 from two lanes to four lanes between Martinsburg and Charles Town, is expected to be well under way next summer, Deneault said.

Deneault said his department can handle all of the projects. The efforts are necessary to prepare the area for expected growth, he said.

"It's obviously a challenge, but a needed one," he said.

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