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Cost of W.Va. 9 expansion rising

March 13, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The estimated cost of widening W.Va. 9 from two to four lanes has risen by roughly $73 million due to increased right-of-way costs and other factors, a state highway official said Tuesday.

The cost of widening the highway from the Virginia line to Martinsburg, W.Va., was estimated to cost $135 million, but it has now risen to about $208 million, according to state Division of Highways spokesman David Clevenger.

One reason the cost of the road has increased is because there has been increased development in areas where planners want to build the road, Clevenger said.

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That has increased the value of the land, meaning the highways department must pay more money for the property, Clevenger said.

The segment of the road from the Virginia line to Charles Town was estimated to be $70 million but now the cost is expected to be about $98 million, Clevenger said.

The Charles Town to Martinsburg segment was estimated to cost $65 million but it is now more likely to cost $110 million, Clevenger said.

In the mid-1990s, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., initially secured $110 million for the project, Clevenger said.

Byrd recently secured another $10 million for the road to help highways officials meet rising costs.

"For every $10 million that is invested in highway and road building, not only is the safety of travelers improved, but also 420 people get jobs in construction and related fields," Byrd said in a news release.

Clevenger said he expects the remaining money for the project to come from other federal sources. The state will also kick in a 20 percent match on what comes from the federal government, Clevenger said.

Work began on widening the road between Charles Town and the Virginia line, but was later stopped due to two federal lawsuits challenging the design of the road.

One of the lawsuits challenges the project because of the feared impact on Belvedere Farm, a National Historic Register property south of Charles Town.

The second lawsuit challenges a proposed bridge over the Shenandoah River, and alleges the highways department was barred from starting any portion of the project until a permit was obtained.

Clevenger said Tuesday he did not know when the suits might be resolved.

The work stoppage does not affect the widening of W.Va. 9 from Charles Town to Martinsburg, highways officials have said.

Although the start of construction on that segment of the road has taken longer than anticipated, construction on a one-mile segment of the road in Bardane is expected to begin in coming months, Clevenger said.

Highways officials hope to have the entire segment of the road from Charles Town to Kearneysville, W.Va., under construction by the end of the year, Clevenger said.

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