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W.Va. 9 suit won't affect Martinsburg-to-Charles Town stretch

May 23, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A state Department of Transportation official said the agency has not obtained a permit for a new W.Va. 9 bridge across the Shenandoah River because it has not reached that stage of the highway widening project.

The highways department has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit and expects to receive one in the next week or two, State Highway Engineer Joe Deneault said Tuesday.

The permit issue arose when six plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit last month over the proposal to widen W.Va. 9 from two to four lanes.

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Pat Fiori, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said a federal report completed on the project requires the state highways department to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a new W.Va. 9 bridge across the Shenandoah River.

The highways department has not obtained the permit, Fiori said.

The suit seeks to stop the widening of the highway from Charles Town south to the Virginia line until the permit can be obtained, although it is unclear how long that will take, Fiori said.

It is the second lawsuit to be filed over the segment of the W.Va. 9 widening from Charles Town south to the Virginia line.

Six months ago, another federal lawsuit - filed by nearly the same group of plaintiffs - alleged 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.

Oral arguments on that case are set for July 1, said Deneault.

The heavily traveled W.Va. 9 is the main east/west route through the three Eastern Panhandle counties and local and state officials say the road needs to be widened to improve safety.

The two lawsuits filed over the project will not affect the section of the road between Charles Town and Martinsburg, Deneault said.

This fall, the state highways department expects to award the first contract for about a mile-long section of the road in Bardane, a small community between Charles Town and Martinsburg, Deneault said.

Construction will begin about a month after the contract is awarded, Deneault said.

Construction on the Charles Town-to-Martinsburg section will begin in Bardane because the highways department already owns the land for the road in that area, Deneault said.

Construction congestion should not be a problem in Bardane because that section of the road will be built on land separate from the existing W.Va. 9, Deneault said.

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