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Group fights W.Va. 9 bypass

August 28, 2000

Group fights W.Va. 9 bypass



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

fighting the bypassMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Members of a group fighting a proposed $100 million four-lane bypass around Martinsburg said Monday night they now believe they have been fighting for the wrong reasons.

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Members of the Berkeley County Citizens Coalition have believed for months the bypass was designed to relieve traffic congestion along W.Va. 9 through Martinsburg, organizers said at a Monday night meeting.

But now they believe the bypass is part of a plan to upgrade W.Va. 9 from the Virginia border through Charles Town, Martinsburg, Berkeley Springs and then to Interstate 70.

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It has nothing to do with relieving traffic congestion as state officials have claimed, Cheryl Long, a member of the board of directors, said she believed. She said she now feels it has everything to do with tying industrial parks together for trucks.

"This is for trucks, not for us," Long told the group of about 25 people. She said she based her belief on recent statements by state highway officials and a close study of the plan.

She and others said Monday that the overall plan to build the bypass and tie it to an upgraded W.Va. 9 was negotiated secretly.

"We want to know who is doing this to our county," she said. "Will those negotiators please stand up and identify yourselves and tell us what you have negotiated?"

Long said the group still opposes the preferred alternative for the bypass, a 6.6-mile stretch from near the Eastern Regional Jail that would run east of Martinsburg and join I-81 at Exit 16. But the group might not oppose another plan.

State Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said he does not believe any secret group is trying to force a plan down the throats of county residents. He said the state is considering two alternatives, one which may end farther north at a new Exit 18 and another that would not affect as many businesses and homes.

"I don't subscribe to this star chamber, like the 'X-Files,'" echoed state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley. "I don't think there's a great conspiracy out there."

Group members said they have been told nothing about the new possible alternatives and complained that a lack of reliable information from the state has upset them.

"There's nothing inherently wrong with doing this for trucks" said Kathryn Murphy. "But if you're going to do it, do it right."

Unger offered to help set up a meeting with local planning, hazardous material and other officials to answer questions. The next meeting will be Oct. 2.

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