Upgrade opposed by residents

U.S. 522

December 01, 2000

U.S. 522 upgrade opposed by residents

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Morgan County residents appealed to the County Commissioners Friday morning for help in fighting a proposal to widen U.S. 522 to a four-lane highway through the county.

Residents are concerned about increased traffic that would be generated by the $100 million road that would offer drivers traveling between Winchester, Va., and Hancock, Md., an alternative to Interstates 81 and 70.

Citizens fear the state Division of Highways has not taken into consideration how the additional traffic will affect tourism in Morgan County.

Berkeley Springs is home to historic mineral springs that have attracted visitors for centuries. Lately, the town has become home to a number of trendy businesses including cafes, boutiques and spas.


Members of the Morgan County Citizens' Coalition asked the commissioners to withdrawal their support for the proposed four-lane state highway and work with the community to design an alternative.

The coalition hired Gerald P. Neily, a civil engineer specializing in transportation planning, to review a Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the state highways department.

Neily's report says state documents, including the Environmental Impact Statement, are not accurate and data contained in the reports are designed to "justify a predetermined goal" of building the four-lane road.

Although highway officials say the road is needed to alleviate expected traffic growth in Morgan County, Neily said traffic is not growing rapidly and that U.S. 522 is a safe road.

The state is proposing a four-lane road east of the existing highway that would run the length of the county, highway officials said.

Neily recommends that as an alternative the state build a two-lane bypass around Berkeley Springs, and that truck traffic be restricted downtown to force trucks to use the bypass.

A state highway official disputed Neily's conclusions.

"The traffic that exists today warrants a four-lane highway," said Dave Clevenger, head of the consult and review section in the highway's department's engineering division.

Clevenger said he opposes restricting truck traffic downtown because it would be nearly impossible to separate trucks that need to get downtown to make deliveries from trucks that are passing through.

The commissioners did not act on the citizen group's request.

Commissioner Thomas Swain said he has talked to a lot of county residents who support the state's plan.

The state highways department will accept public comments on the state's plan until Dec. 15.

The state may complete final design for the road by next summer, although no federal money has been secured for the project, Clevenger said.

The Herald-Mail Articles