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Public hearing clated on bypass

January 27, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It happens about 3:30 p.m. every weekday and lasts until about 5 p.m.

The traffic flowing along Queen Street through Martinsburg slows to a trickle as rush-hour traffic tries to make its way along the north and south route through town.

Queen Street is actually U.S. 11, but it's no resemblance to a highway at this time, as traffic often becomes gridlocked, city officials say.

"It's getting progressively worse. Not only north and south but east and west," Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said.

Traffic problems along eastern and western routes are illustrated by the heavy traffic that often accumulates on Moler Avenue, which intersects Queen Street in the northern part of town, said Martinsburg City Councilman Roger Lewis.

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Although nearly everyone agrees traffic congestion around Martinsburg is becoming a problem, there is a difference of opinion about how to correct it.

The state Division of Highways favors building a four-lane bypass around the eastern edge of town. There are nine possible routes for the road, ranging in cost from $110 million to $161 million, highway officials say. The road would be 4.8 miles to 6.8 miles long, highway officials say.

On Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m., local residents will be able to give input about the bypass proposals and learn about the plans during a public meeting that state highway officials will hold at Eagle School Intermediate on Eagle School Road in Martinsburg.

Highway officials are moving forward with plans for a bypass even though there is no federal money for the project, according to Dave Clevenger, head of the consulting and review section for the highway department's engineering division.

Highway officials expect to meet with federal highway officials for funding for the route, Clevenger said.

State highway officials hope to make a recommendation on a route for the bypass by late spring or early summer, Clevenger said.

While there is some feeling among Martinsburg City Council members that a bypass would help ease traffic congestion, they believe a quicker and simpler way to alleviate the problem is to extend Raleigh Street north through town, Karos and Lewis said.

Raleigh Street runs parallel to Queen Street, but it currently dead-ends at Race Street. City council members say the road could be opened at the Race Street intersection and extended north to hook up with Edwin Miller Boulevard, a major northerly route out of town that runs into Interstate 81.

State highway officials have studied the Raleigh Street extension idea and estimate it would cost $14 million to $18 million and would be about 1.2 miles to 1.3 miles long.

Karos said he has no preference on the route for extending Raleigh Street. The road would affect up to two houses and three to four businesses, depending on where it is built.

"We just want it done," said Karos, adding that City Council members will go to Tuesday's meeting to let their feelings be known about the idea.

While state highway officials have looked at an extension of Raleigh Street, they do not believe it will meet the larger transportation needs of the community, Clevenger said. Another problem with the Raleigh Street extension proposal is that it could run through some historical and sensitive wetland areas, Clevenger said.

A bypass is preferable for the area because it will provide "system linkage" in the future transportation plan for the Eastern Panhandle, Clevenger said. In other words, the bypass will be designed in such a way that it will be part of W.Va. 9 as the two-lane road is expanded to a four-lane road from Jefferson County west through Berkeley County and Martinsburg and on to Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Clevenger said.

Of the nine alternatives for the bypass, all of them branch off W.Va. 9 in the area of the Eastern Regional Jail, Clevenger said. One of the alternatives would hook into Interstate 81 between the North Queen Street and Spring Mills Road exits after looping east of town, Clevenger said.

Depending on where the bypass goes, it could affect 36 to 102 houses and one to 17 businesses, highway officials said.

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