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Venue change for w.va. 9 suit approved

February 27, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

Martinsburg, W.Va. - A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit that challenges parts of the W.Va. 9 expansion project should be moved from U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to the Northern District of West Virginia.

Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the U.S. District Court in Washington made the ruling Monday.

It is expected that the case will he heard in Martinsburg, which is part of the Northern District, according to a press release from the state Division of Highways.

A federal judge is expected to hear oral arguments this summer, the press release said.

Earlier this month, state highway engineer Joe Deneault said the venue for the lawsuit should be moved from U.S. District Court in Washington because the court there has "absolutely no connection to this case."

"The courts have recognized this is a case that will affect the lives of the citizens of West Virginia. Who better than a West Virginia court to decide the outcome of such an important case?" state Transportation Secretary Fred VanKirk said in the release.

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Pat Fiori, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, had said the groups bringing the lawsuit wanted it heard in Washington, D.C., because there are federal issues involved, including federal funding.

About $110 million in federal money has been set aside for widening W.Va. 9 from two to four lanes.

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.

The groups bringing the lawsuit are concerned about the design of the road between Charles Town and the Virginia line and Fiori has said she wants that segment of the project halted until a better plan can be devised.

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

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