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Capito takes a spin at automotive research center

January 31, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito climbed into a car used for high-speed road maneuvering exercises at the Summit Point Automotive Research Center Thursday morning to get a better feel for the track's ongoing anti-terrorism training.

Employees of government agencies such as the U.S. State Department receive evasive driver's training at the 10-turn asphalt racetrack to help protect them from possible terrorist attacks.

To handle increasing demand for the training, owners of the track are expanding the course by 8,700 feet at a cost of $5.6 million.

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Construction started on the new track last fall even though all the funding has not been lined up for the project, said Bill Reichardt, the track's vice-president of business development.

The track was recently approved for a $6.1 million loan package from Huntington National Bank, with about $3.9 million to be used for the track expansion, Reichardt said.

Capito, R-W.Va., said she will try to line up additional funding for the track expansion through new homeland security efforts being launched by the federal government.

Capito said it is exciting to find West Virginia businesses that can play a role in the anti-terrorism effort and help them get funding to help them expand at the same time.

"The events of September 11th have called our government, our communities and our nation to meet the challenges of security in the 21st century," Capito said.

The sound of squealing tires could be heard at the track as drivers zipped along the course in former highway patrol cars Thursday morning.

"This is a typical day out here," said Reichardt as he explained the operation to reporters.

The drivers speed up the track then learn how to handle the car when an orange cone suddenly appears on the road, Reichardt said.

The cones are meant to illustrate a grenade or another car that is a threat to the driver, Reichardt said.

The people who were receiving training Thursday at the track were from the State Department and the Canadian government, Reichardt said.

Capito climbed into one of the white cruisers for a ride around the track.

After returning, Capito said she would have to examine the appropriations process for the homeland security money to determine where funding for the track might be located.

"All that stuff is relatively new, so it always takes some time to figure that out," Capito spokeswoman Anne Buresh said.

Construction of the track could be completed by July, Reichardt said.

Additional living quarters, food service facilities and other improvements are planned for the track to help offer the expanded anti-terrorist training.

Track owner Bill Scott said Thursday that dormitory facilities would be constructed later.

The Jefferson County Commission allowed the track to expand even though some Summit Point area citizens raised concerns about the project, saying noise from the track already was unbearable and that property values have decreased in the community.

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