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Bypass options draw mixed reactions

January 29, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Those who attended a Tuesday evening work session dealing with plans to build a bypass around Martinsburg or extend Raleigh Street northward toward Interstate 81 had mixed opinions.

Although his house would not be affected, Chad Haines was adamant road construction needs to be slowed, if not halted altogether.

"It's going to be all roads and concrete and buildings and housing developments," Haines said. "It's going to be like the beltway."

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Haines was one of hundreds who attended the three-hour work session in the cafeteria of Eagle School Intermediate.

Ten large maps were taped to the school's walls, and other informational placards were on display. Division of Highways officials and employees of a consulting firm fielded questions.

Many who attended closely scrutinized the large maps showing the nine bypass options, along with the four options to extend Raleigh Street. Some looked for their house to see if it would be affected.

Dave Clevenger, a design engineer with the DOH, said highway officials do not have a preferred alternative route for the four-lane bypass and want residents to comment. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 28.

A Raleigh Street extension alone would help alleviate downtown traffic, but would not meet another goal - alleviating "regional traffic" from W.Va. 9. Only a bypass would link W.Va. 9 East, which heads to Charles Town, and W.Va. 9 West, which goes to Berkeley Springs, Clevenger said.

If Raleigh Street is extended, three to four businesses would be displaced, depending on which route is selected. Up to three residences would be displaced, and three to five acres of farmland and an acre of wetland would be affected.

The project would cost between $14 million and $23 million.

The bypass, meanwhile, would affect more property and cost more.

Depending on which of the nine options is selected, one to 17 businesses would be displaced, as would 45 to 110 homes. Up to 77 acres of farmland could be affected and several historical areas could be adversely affected, according to information in a booklet handed out at the workshop.

Officials estimate the bypass could cost $109 million to $161 million.

For now, funding is a moot point. No money has been secured yet for the design or construction of the bypass and/or Raleigh Street extension project, Clevenger said.

Sitting at a cafeteria table, Ed Files said he favors both a bypass and a Raleigh Street extension.

"It's a traffic problem, getting through town north to south," he said.

Harold Hammersla agreed. Neither man's home would be affected by the plans.

"The traffic around Martinsburg is pretty bad," Hammersla said. "You're waiting, waiting and waiting to get through."

Building the road is crucial to the Eastern Panhandle, which increased in population by 24 percent from 1990 to 2000, Clevenger said. The increase was by far the most in the state, with some areas of the state losing population by up to 6 percent.

By this summer, highway officials plan to pick a route and hold another public hearing, Clevenger said.

All of the bypass options start around Eastern Regional Jail off W.Va. 9. Some then veer close to or through portions of downtown Martinsburg. Others skirt around city limits, and would call for a new exit near the 17 mile marker on Interstate 81.

For the extension, all four options begin where Raleigh Street, which parallels North Queen Street, dead-ends at West Race Street.

Three plans would encompass parts of Oatesdale Park, while the fourth would encompass a small portion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's property off South Queen Street.

A separate, but related highway proposal calls for making Moler Avenue and Woodbury Avenue one-way streets.

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