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Roundhouse access issues aired

September 20, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Some consider the B&O Roundhouse to be the future of Martinsburg.

Getting there is another matter, literally.

At their meeting Thursday morning, the Berkeley County Commissioners received an inch-thick study prepared by Alpha Associates, an engineering and architectural firm, and Grove and Dall'Olio, an architectural office.

The in-depth study, which took around two years to finish, examines everything from parking issues, infrastructure, railroad service and future possibilities - including building a light rail line from the Roundhouse to Eastern Regional Airport.

For the Roundhouse to become the tourist destination Roundhouse Authority members hope for, people must be able to get there.

Now, pedestrians must walk across railroad tracks that are used by commuter, passenger and freight trains. Parking is available, but "more parking will need to be provided off-site, if significant events are to be successful," according to the report.

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Plans for the Roundhouse complex call for an elevated pedestrian bridge to be built across the tracks, as well as a new vehicular access road from Queen Street. Roundhouse officials are seeking $6.8 million from the state Economic Development Grant Committee, which has not yet announced whether it will fund the project.

Dick Klein, a civil engineer and CEO of Alpha Associates, said some of the proposals in the study are ideas he hopes people talk and think about.

For example, a taxi company could open an office at the current Caperton Train Station to be more visible for future tourists, the report indicates. Also, an excursion train is a possibility, as are trolley tours, a park, bike trail and driving tours.

Although the city offers one downtown walking tour, additional ones could focus on churches, Revolutionary War sites, gardens, railroad facilities or even ghost sites, the study suggests.

Horse and carriage tours, like the "romantic and historic" ones held in Charleston, S.C., and New York City are a possibility as well, according to the report.

Adequate access is a key to unlocking the Roundhouse's success, Klein said.

"If you can't get people in and out of there, you're going to greatly inhibit the use," he said.

Howard Strauss, president of the Berkeley County Commission, agreed.

"I would say that is our number one problem. Our current access," he said.

With the report finished, it can now be used to apply for grants, Strauss said. Portions of the study could also be incorporated into the county's comprehensive plan, he said.

None of the ideas are without cost. The light rail line from the Roundhouse to the airport could cost more than $13 million, including upgrading an existing track which runs from the Roundhouse to Capitol Cement, Klein said.

A $300,000 grant from the Federal Highways Administration paid for the study, said architect Lisa Dall'Olio.

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