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Route 9 agreement reached

January 31, 2002

Route 9 agreement reached



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Representatives from the West Virginia Department of Transportation and a group opposed to the upgrading of W.Va. 9 from Charles Town to the Virginia line have reached an agreement over a request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted construction on the project, officials for the two sides said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the groups that were seeking a temporary restraining order through a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., have agreed to temporarily withdraw their request for the restraining order, according to a press release from the Department of Transportation.

In exchange for their actions, the Department of Transportation has agreed that through May 31, it will not continue with construction of piers and abutments for a proposed bridge over the Charles Town bypass.

The agency also has agreed not to proceed with right-of-way acquisition on property belonging to John Porter, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, according to the release.

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The Department of Transportation may continue with other right-of-way acquisition work and engineering work, the release said.

Pat Fiori, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Wednesday night that the Department of Transportation may not start any more construction on the local leg of the road, except for clearing off land that has already started in the Cattail Road area.

It is hoped that after May 31, the case will be closer to a resolution, Fiori said.

After May 31, the highways department can proceed with all construction activities and may advertise and award additional contracts for the Route 9 project, said Fred VanKirk, secretary of the Department of Highways.

As part of the agreement, the department must provide the plaintiffs with 10 days notice before beginning the construction on the bridge over U.S. 340 or awarding additional construction contracts, VanKirk said.

"We certainly feel this is a breakthrough in the case," VanKirk said.

"Although the lawsuit and its proceedings will continue, we can move forward, at least in a limited manner, on the Charles Town to Virginia state line section of Route 9," VanKirk said.

The lawsuit, which was filed by seven parties from West Virginia and Virginia, alleges that the Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation violated the Environmental Policy Act and a section of the Department of Transportation Act dealing with historic sites, according to the Department of Transportation.

Fiori said the groups are concerned that highway planners are taking several acres from the Belvedere Farm, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Belvedere Farm was built by the Tate family, which worked with Charles Washington in founding Charles Town, said Fiori, who is a member of the Route 9 Opposition Legal Fund.

The groups filing the lawsuit are also concerned how the highway project would impact the environment in the Shenandoah River area where the highway would cross, said Fiori.

The opposition groups estimate an 800-foot-by-100-foot notch would have to be taken out of the top of Snyder Hill before the expanded four-lane highway crosses the Shenandoah River.

The four-lane highway is inconsistent with the Virginia section of the road, said Fiori. Virginia does not plan to expand the highway to four lanes, and Fiori fears there will be traffic jams as the four-lane traffic funnels into two-lanes at the West Virginia/Virginia line.

"This is a completely out-of-synch plan. There's no consistency," said Fiori.

Fiori said she would like to see the planned expansion of W.Va. 9 from Charles Town to the Virginia line halted until a better plan can be devised.

Fiori said she has no problems with the segment from Charles Town to Martinsburg.

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