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No matter what route is picked, bypass access must be limited

January 30, 2003

Just as you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, it also seems you can't propose new road construction without getting some people upset. So it is with the proposed bypass of Martinsburg. W.Va.

With nine options on the table, there should be one most people can live with. The trick will be preserving the bypass for its intended purpose after it's built.

Officials of the Division of Highways who spoke at the work session held this week at Eagle School Intermediate said that the project should relieve traffic congestion in downtown Martinsburg and stop tie-ups due to regional traffic from W.Va. 9.

Given the cost - the estimate for the cheapest option is $14 million to $23 million - this project isn't likely to get under way any time soon. But DOH officials say they plan to pick a route by this summer, after which they will hold another public meeting.

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Whichever route is picked, it's essential that any new road have limited access, so that traffic isn't slowed by cars entering and exiting from an endless number of driveways. In so many cases roads built to alleviate traffic congestion end up adding to it instead.

How can this be avoided? If any development is allowed along the bypass - and there will be pressure from property owners who see a potential customer in every vehicle that passes by - access should only be allowed at a few intersections controlled by traffic signals.

Traffic should be carried to those intersections on service roads running parallel to the main roadway. And rights-of-way for those service roads should be reserved at the same time the bypass is charted. Trying to get that property later, after commercial development has begun, will be nearly impossible.

The other issue that should be dealt with now is how to persuade in-city businesses not to move to locations along the bypass. We say "persuade" because if the potential to improve the bottom line with a move is there, city officials have to offer up some reason besides civic pride to get businesses to stay.

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