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Oral arguments presented on W. Va. 9 suit

July 02, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, Pa. - A group of seven individuals and organizations that filed a lawsuit over the proposed four-lane W.Va. 9 project pointed Monday to a federal government publication that shows how two-lane roads can be improved without making them four lanes.

The groups, who have filed suit over the section of the new road from Charles Town, W.Va., to the Virginia state line, showed sections in the publication that suggest how to widen a two-lane road to add a third lane for passing.

The publication, "Low Cost Methods for Improving Traffic Operations on Two Lane Roads," also outlines how to make changes in highways to ease sharp curves.

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The groups showed the publication as part of their effort to force the state Department of Highways to stop work on the highway and look at alternatives.

Arguments on both sides of the suit were heard Monday by U.S. District Judge Craig Broadwater.

Broadwater, saying the case involves an important issue for the area, said he would try to make a ruling within 30 days.

The Route 9 Opposition Legal Fund and the other plaintiffs filed the suit in U.S. District Court alleging 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.

Washington, D.C., attorney Andrea Ferster, who is representing the Route 9 Opposition Legal Fund, cited federal requirements that she says forces highway planners to look at alternative routes when historical properties are threatened by a highway project.

Lawyers representing the state Department of Highways and the Federal Highway Administration said Monday that different highway designs were considered.

But it was determined that a two-lane road could no longer meet the needs of the growing area, said attorney Sheila Jones, who represented the State Department of Highways.

Attorney Pamela West, who represented the Federal Highway Administration, rattled off a list of statistics to emphasize that point.

Ideally, the safe amount of traffic for any section of the road between Charles Town and the Virginia line is about 2,400 cars a day, West said.

At the intersection of W.Va. 9 and Kabletown Road, 10,500 cars a day passed through during a traffic count in 1992, West said.

In 1999, the traffic count at the intersection rose to 11,197 cars a day, West said.

A two-lane road like W.Va. 9 should have an intersection sight distance of between 570 feet and 720 feet, West said. The road, however, has intersection sight distances as low as 130 feet.

The road should be between 11 feet and 12 feet wide but is only 10 feet wide, and its shoulders should be 8 feet wide instead of 4 feet wide, West said.

"We don't believe the road can meet the standards (needed) by the traveling public," West said.

Pat Fiori, one of the plaintiffs, said the groups that filed the lawsuit are troubled over the fact that highway planners are taking several acres from the Belvedere Farm, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

About a dozen attorneys and staff members from the state Department of Highways traveled to Martinsburg Monday to put on their case.

"This is the most important thing on our agenda," state highway engineer Joe Deneault said after the hearing.

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